Water Wise Plants | 10 Minute Read

11646-Autumn-Joy-Sedum Sedum ‘Autumn joy’ is waterwise, adding bright colours to those drab Autumn months

Article Provided by Cape Contours​

With the current water shortage in the Western Cape, Cape Contours Landscape Solutions is focused squarely on incorporating Water Wise plants and principles into every landscape we create. So to help the water-conscious gardener, we have added to our list of our best water wise plants.

In the Cape, now is a good time to get the planning done for your garden before the long anticipated rains arrive and planting can finally begin. Decide which plants are too water intensive to survive down the line and with the help of gardening books or a professional Landscape Designer, re-evaluate problem areas in your garden. In this blog Cape Contours looks at more of our favourite hardy species and why our Garden Design team love them.

Small or Needle-like leaves

  • Confetti bush – a very common indigenous, buchu-like medium to large shrub covered with tiny white or light pink flowers for most of spring and summer. "We still love them for the soft limey-green texture that their fine leaves add amongst darker leaved plants like Carissa macrocarpa or structural Strelitzia species and Aloes." – Lucy Schnell
  • Asparagus ferns – Great filler plants for shady to semi-shaded areas, these hardy indigenous plants store their water in bulblets along their roots, making them seriously tough. We especially love 'Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii' for its bushy cat's tails that add form in a shady garden of groundcovers. Also Aparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri' for its fluffy effect which looks great mass-planted in shady retaining walls or amongst sculptural Cycas and Arum species. – Julia Budden
  • Acacia trees – still a firm favorite amongst gardeners and landscapers alike, these umbrella shaped trees give a typically African flavour to any garden. Water wise with their small leaves amongst their thorns, these are good trees in larger gardens where their stately canopies can have room to show off. Excellent too amongst rocks and decorative gravels to show off their attractive bark. – Ronel Cockett

Succulent leaves

  • Bulbine frutescens/latifolia – bright pops of yellow and orange borne on wispy flower stems with neat succulent leaves giving a 'grass-like' effect, these hardy indigenous plants look great paired with small growing grasses like Carex 'frosted curls' or 'bronze curls'. Latifolia has taller stems with canary yellow flowers held above bigger strappy, succulent leaves. "Great en masse for a striking colour display, we used them at our Cape Town Flower Show 2016 stand." – Bridget Fogarty
  • Sedum species – beautiful Autumn-flowering succulent perennials that add a splash of limey green to off-white, pink and bronze maroon when not much else is flowering. Very tough and water wise to boot, these look beautiful planted in large bands with softer grasses and Salvia species to show off their flat-topped flower heads. – Cara Smith
  • Senecio species – with many different succulent senecio succulents to choose from, these hardy succulents add cool blue to silvery tones to the landscape with their fleshy, needle-like leaves. "We love them for the textural interest their leaves create and they look beautiful paired up with purple and white flowering perennials to show off their cool tones." Favorites are Senecio vitalis and S. ficoides with its fatter finger-shaped leaves. – Sasha Schaeffer

Grey foliage

  • Tulbaghia violacea – dependable and tough, these colourful pink-flowered perennials make an excellent groundcover plant and look fantastic planted in large bands amongst other perennials like Felicias and Gaura. Suited for full sun, they also seem to do well and even flower in semi-shade. Beautiful for adding to the Cottage style garden or the West Coast garden style. – Stephen Steyn
  • Pelargonium reniforme – one of the toughest of the Pelargoniums, with slightly silvery leaves, these bright magenta flowered plants seem to thrive in hot and dry conditions. Useful for North facing pots and beds, they add colour and interest all year round. Cut them back after flowering to promote new green growth. – Julia Budden
  • Helichrysum petiolare – Another smaller and more compact growing Helichrysum that is water wise and very good as a filler plant adding splashes of bright grey foliage amongst other grasses and structural shrubs and perennials. "We used them extensively at Valkenberg hospital gardens beds amongst a mix of Hypoestes and Agapanthus that can grow in the shade too. – Stephen Steyn

Hairy foliage

  • Carex grasses – Grasses add a special softness to the landscape and when planted in bands with other flowering perennials, really add interest and textural contrast. We use a lot of Carex in our gardens because it is water wise and tough, hardy to wind and can look good all year round. Good for the low foreground of beds with taller flowering perennials or sculptural plants amongst and behind them. – Cara Smith
  • Geranium incanum – a firm favourite for using in embankments or slopes where their soft foliage can spill over the edges to soften retaining walls and paving. Bright pink and purple, yet delicate flower heads, bob on thin stems just above their fluffy and hairy textured leaves. – Lucy Schnell
  • Aristida junciformis – a beautiful grass giving a blonde to light green effect with seasonal variation throughout the year. Excellent plant for adding an airy texture to the garden and to simulate a feeling of water or savannah grassland. Beautiful en masse under water wise Olive trees. – Sasha Schaeffer

Waxy leaves

  • Cycas revoluta – these striking and sculptural plants are astonishingly hardy as well. Their thick trunks and waxy coated leaves store water and keep them looking lush for long periods. Great for pots as striking specimen plants or in the shady garden, we love these sculptural, yet slow-growing plants that look great near water. – Ronel Cockett
  • Plectranthus verticillatus – a great Plectranthus for those tough, dry-shaded areas where not much else will grow. Semi-succulent leaves are small, bright green and shiny and it spreads very easily from cuttings. Good groundcover for shaded to semi-shaded areas and will even do well in some sun. – Julia Budden
  • Pavetta lanceolata – the 'Brides bush' is a beautiful addition to the garden, making a medium to large sized shrub with beautiful lush green foliage and masses of white sprays of flowers in Spring. Hardy in periods of drought, these beautiful plants look good as specimen shrubs amongst the structural evergreen plants of the garden. – Bridget Fogarty

A little tip, group your plants according to their water needs and after planting add a thick layer of organic mulch. Use compost at the bottom of the planting holes to encourage deep rooting and water less frequently and more deeply to encourage plant resilience

Happy gardening!

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