A good addition to your bird garden

2008-04-23 00:00

Leonotus leonurus, better known as Wild Dagga (no relation to Cannabis sativa, known as Dagga) is a very useful addition to your bird garden. This fast-growing shrub (up to two metres) has long, soft and hairy dull-green leaves and produces beautiful velvety orange flowers in the autumn months. The Wild Dagga is mostly evergreen; however, in the colder areas it will lose its leaves.

The nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies, bees and birds, such as the Black, Olive and Collard Sunbirds. Insects are also attracted to the flowers and insectivorous birds will often visit these plants in search of food.

Wild Dagga species grow naturally in the summer rainfall regions of South Africa, found mostly in open grasslands and rocky areas. Traditionally this shrub is used for many different remedies: to heal colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, headaches, asthma and high blood pressure. A leaf and root remedy is used to treat snake bites. A flower and leaf treatment is used to treat tapeworm and the earliest dwellers in South Africa chewed and smoked this plant instead of tobacco.

Wild Dagga can be propagated by seed, cuttings or dividing up large clumps. This shrub is relatively easy to grow and not particularly fussy about soil, but it will do best in a compost-rich, well-drained soil.

Plant the Wild Dagga as part of an informal mixed border or in a rockery. Remember to water well in the summer months and prune back in the winter to keep the shrub tidy.

This shrub is very drought and frost resistant. If your garden gets a lot of frost in the winter months, it is best to cut the shrub back completely in the winter. During spring it will quickly send up new shoots.

Because the Wild Dagga grows so easily it is often planted and then left neglected in a corner of the garden. This is when it can become very untidy.

However, with a small amount of attention and pruning, this will form a very attractive garden shrub. A creamy-white flowering form of the Wild Dagga is now available as well.

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