Add some bright colour to your winter garden

2008-04-04 00:00

Add some colour to your garden this winter with Osteospermum jucundum

Osteospermum jucundum, better known as the Trailing Mauve Daisy, is an excellent perennial indigenous groundcover, giving your garden some extra colour from late autumn to early spring.

The Osteospermum jucundum forms clumps (up to 30 centimetres high) of attractive green leaves. These leaves are narrow and tapering at the ends, and often toothed with short hairs. From March to September these clumps are covered with beautiful purple daisy-like flowers.

Larvae of the Dickson’s opal butterfly have been known to feed on the Osteospermum jucundum, and the clumps of leaves form a perfect safe haven in your garden for the many smaller creatures to shelter in, such as lizards, beetles and crickets.

Naturally Osteospermum jucundum can be found growing in grasslands and rocky cliffs and mountainous areas from the KwaZulu-Natal coastline up into Lesotho, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Traditionally, the leaves and roots were used to make a remedy to treat stomach complaints.

Propagate the Osteospermum jucundum by lifting the rooted runners and replanting. However, this plant self-seeds and multiplies freely.

You can use the plant to cover a dry slope or sidewalk, or plant it above a terraced wall and allow it to cascade over the wall. Plant it in a rockery or as an informal border along the edge of a garden bed. These are also successfully grown in planters on patios for those of you who may not have additional space in your garden. Remember to plant it in full sun where possible, as the flowers need the sun to open.

When planting the Osteospermum in your garden, always plant it in fertile, light, well-drained soil that contains plenty of compost and remember to water it moderately throughout the year. When planting, space the plants about one metre apart as they spread rapidly. You will have to cut them back to keep them from trailing over other plants in your garden.

This plant is fairly drought and frost resistant. After two to three years, you may find that the plant gets untidy. It is better at this stage to take it out and replace it with new plants or rooted runners.

A suitable alternative if your local nursery does not have Osteospermum jucundum would be Osteospermum ecklonis, which forms a soft, rounded bushy shrub with large white daisy-like flowers (this species flowers from September to February).

So include both species in your garden to have colour all year round. There are also attractive hybrids of both species available — inquire about these species at your local garden centre.

• Sonja van der Merwe is an indigenous plant enthusiast and owner of Springvale Nursery and Gardening.

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