Water Wise Gardening – some Tips and Ideas

Choose locally suitable water-wise practices

Being water-wise is essential in South Africa, as we’re constantly experiencing serious droughts.

Establish a Water Conservation Program

Okay, so that’s your home sorted. But what about your garden? Is it possible to save water and still have a thriving garden?


The answer is yes if you choose the right plants and stick to water-wise gardening plants and methods.

Tips for water-wise gardening:

  • Go indigenous, planting what occurs naturally in your area. Exotic plants often need more water.
  • Group plants with similar water needs together so you don’t overwater less thirsty plants while attending to the thirsty ones.
  • Use mulch to stop moisture escaping. Don’t rake up and compost your leaves in Autumn … spread them over the garden.

Don’t send them to garden waste ending up in landfill


Choose locally suitable water-wise plants.

Some important water-wise plants

1. Agapanthus are recommended for most gardens, from the tall globular-headed ones to the ever-shrinking dwarf cultivars now available.

Divide your agapanthus plants every 4–5 years or when they become too large and under productive.

However, when these clumps become too large, they begin to dominate the garden and start flowering less, so it’s a good idea to rejuvenate them by lifting and splitting them up.

In South Africa, the best time to divide evergreen agapanthus is in spring and early summer as new growth emerges, or in early autumn, about March/April, after the plants have finished flowering. If you divide your agapanthus in spring, they are less likely to flower in the same year.

2. Aloes contain over 500 species of flowering succulent plants.

Aloes are found from Arabia in the North to Madagascar in the East and Southern Africa in the South.

Aloes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, are well adapted for harsh climates and they can survive in mountains, grasslands, deserts and on beaches .
Both the spiky leaves and the bitter tasting sap prevents animals and insects from eating it.

Aloes are well known succulents, not just for their beauty but for their medicinal properties as well. You could find aloe vera in skin-care products, hair shampoo, vitamins and supplements.

Growing Aloes in cultivation can be rewarding especially when they are in flower, which is a spectacular display in any garden.

3. Cape Honeysuckle is water-wise and a ‘must-have’ for bird and butterfly gardens
It is wildly popular with gardeners in South Africa for its clusters of tubular flowers in brilliant shades of orange, red, yellow, apricot or salmon.

Flowers is sporadic throughout the year in warm regions. The flowers are pollinated by nectar-feeding birds, especially sunbirds, but are also visited by honeybees and butterflies.

Although the Cape honeysuckle flowers best in full sun, it will tolerate some shade. It is moderately drought hardy once established, but responds well if it is watered regularly in the garden, especially in very hot regions. Pruning in late winter or early spring is essential to keep it as a shrub and to control its size, and even ruthless pruning is tolerated.

4. Clivia is a vivid orange blooms of the indigenous bush lily or clivia are a welcome sight in local gardens after the winter season.

For water-wise gardeners, it is worth noting that clivias have large roots which store nutrients and water for long periods.

Clivias are low maintenance plants with a long lifespan. They are also easy to grow, whether grown in a shady border or planted in a container.
This makes them ideal plants for beginner gardeners. 

5. Lavender make your garden a delight by growing beautiful aromatic and medicinal lavender

Lavender is one of our loveliest garden plants, and because it is so successful in landscapes, one forgets that it is primarily a herb, and an extraordinarily useful one at that. It has a long list of attributes. Besides its fragrance and beauty, it is an ancient medicinal plant, an effective pest repellent, a valuable companion plant, a culinary flavouring and garnish and household freshener and cleaning agent. The flowers also attract bees and butterflies.

PruningCut back by a third after flowering.Lavenders that flower continuously can be lightly trimmed when bushes start looking untidy.Deadheading keeps plants looking neat.

1. As a healing herb

Lavender has a calming effect that helps us to sleep, relieves headaches and indigestion, lifts fatigue and depression and even eases anxiety-induced asthma. Sip a fragrant lavender tea or soak in a lavender-infused bath.

Lavender flowers are also known to be antiseptic and antibacterial, so they can be used in creams and oils to heal burns, stings, wounds and sores, even mild cases of acne.

2. As a natural insect repellent

The strongly aromatic leaves naturally repel aphids, whitefly and other pests, reducing the need for garden sprays. Dried lavender can be used in bunches, bags and pot-pourri as a natural air freshener and as a moth and insect repellent. It will also help to repel the neighbours’ cats, as well as rats and mice, who don’t like the camphor smell.

3. In the kitchen

Used with a light touch, lavender flowers impart a delicious flavour and aroma to biscuits, other baked treats and desserts. Chopped leaves tenderise meat and can be added to soups, stews and casseroles.

4. As a cleaning agent

Make a natural household cleaner from a strong infusion of the flowers, or a few drops of essential oil mixed with vinegar and water. The same mixture can be used to remove pet smells and soiling.

6. Plumbago is one of the prettiest indigenous shrubs we have in South Africa with powder-blue, coloured flowers.

It requires loads of water when establishing but after that can be left to its own devices only needed fertilizer to keep it lush and flowering well.

It makes a perfect hedge plant, trimmed or left to ramble.
It attracts many insects, butterflies and birds to the garden.
It can handle full sun or light shade – in too shady areas it will grow up trees to seek the light.

7. Strelitzia alsoknown as crane flower and bird of paradise,
is one the most popular perennials around the world. It flowers for long periods with its vivid orange and yellow varieties with bright purple/blue inflorences are ideal pot plant and cut flowers.

Strelitzia reginae occurs naturally only in South Africa along the eastern coast from Humansdorp to northern KwaZulu-Natal in coastal bush and thicket. It grows along river banks in full sun, however sometimes it occurs and flowers on margins of forest in shade.


Strelitziaceae Common names … Natal wild banana


Bird of paradise Beautiful yellow flower …Strelitzia Reginae


Orange Strelitzia reginae ….they complements a wildlife or indigenous garden brilliantly

8. Succulents make succulents your go-to plants that are hardyand water wise.

Jelly Bean Plants (Sedum rubrotinctum)  are loved by succulent growers. Colorful chubby, little red-tipped leaves that look like jelly beans make it a favorite. It is sometimes called pork-n-beans because the leaves sometimes turn bronze in summer.

Others refer to it as Christmas cheer. Whatever you call it, jelly bean sedums make for an unusual plant in an arrangement or in a pot by itself.

Zebra plant (Haworthia attenuata) This succulent is great for your indoor succulent garden. It has thick, dark green leaves with white horizontal stripes on the outside of the leaves.

The inside of the leaves are smooth.

Porkbush .. Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) Also known as Pork Bush or Elephant’s Food, this indigenous evergreen is an environmental miracle worker, with the potential to tackle carbon emissions like no other plant can.

Perennial..Indigenous to South Africa An attractive evergreen succulent shrub/ small tree that can reach 1,5 – 2m in height when planted in the garden

Kalanchoe tomentosa Panda Plant is a beautiful, furry looking, blue-gray succulent covered in tiny white hair and brown spots on the leaf edges. It keeps nice foliage and upright form year round.

Native to Madagascar, this kalanchoe is an easy care succulent. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Plant in full sun. Water average amount and let the soil dry out between waterings.

Jade plants (Crassula) produce fleshy oval leaves on thick stalks and can quickly grow into a shrub-like plant that reaches heights of 5 feet when grown indoors. These tough succulents require little care, making them a smart choice if you’re a novice, but they are attractive enough to capture your attention if you’re a houseplant expert.

Jade plants do require special attention to avoid becoming top-heavy and tipping the plant pot over.

Ghost Plant Graptopetalum Paraguayense is a colorful, succulent perennial with up to 15 cm wide rosettes, holding thick, triangular, pointed, flat leaves that range in color from pale blue to light purple. The fleshy rosettes spread on stems creating a low spreading colony up to 30 cm tall. 

The flowers are 2 cm wide and white in color, with small red specks.

Plush Plant Echeveria harmsii is also known as Red Echeveria. It is a succulent evergreen subshrub native to Mexico. It forms small rosettes of fleshy, narrow, dark green, velvet-plush leaves adorned with red edges. In spring, it sends up flowering stems bearing large, urn-shaped, bright orange flowers with golden throats which are highly attractive to hummingbirds.

Grown for the beauty of its flowers rather than for its handsomely colored foliage, this Echeveria will occasionally offset and form a small colony. It is a great choice for sunny gardens or containers.


South Africa continuosly is subjected to drought conditions and to continuously consider how to have a beautiful garden without wasting copious amounts of water.

Reconsider your lawn for water wise gardening First things first, if you have a large garden and most of it is covered by lawn, it’s time to reconsider. The lawn can be the biggest water consumer and when it fills up most of the garden it can end up costing a lot of money to keep green.


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