Shrubs as architectural focus factors within the backyard 🌳 –


This weblog lists shrubs, small timber, and different shrub-like vegetation that you should utilize as architectural type vegetation to create an attention-grabbing piece in your backyard. Whenever you add a few rigorously chosen timber and shrubs and different shrub-like vegetation, you may go far in rising the attraction of your backyard. Moreover, including a few of these vegetation to your backyard will add curiosity and dimension. Flip boring uniform areas into trendy, jaw-dropping present ‘items’. We’ve chosen some South African favourites, which we are going to focus on under.

Rhaphiolepis indica – Indian Hawthorn shrub

That is one in every of our favorite unique shrubs or typically small timber. This can be very powerful, and there may be little likelihood of one thing going fallacious whenever you plant one in every of these shrubs. It’s going to develop between 1.5 and 2m excessive, typically taller and about 1m large. One may buy this plant in a lollipop type. Moreover, it lends itself to pruning right into a hedge and formed vegetation.

Indian hawthorn has darkish inexperienced leathery leaves and produces plenty of white, mild pink or darkish pink flowers in profusion, creating fairly a spectacular sight. These shrubs observe up their flowers with black berries, that are edible when cooked. Not solely are you able to eat them cooked, however you can too make jam from them. The berries are additionally extremely popular with birds. Rhaphiolepis may be grown in solar / semi-shade and is drought-hardy. Furthermore, it could actually tolerate heavy winds, together with these of coastal/saline gardens, and grows in virtually all soils.

Is it any surprise that we’re in love with this spectacular plant? The one destructive factor I can say about this plant is that they’re sluggish rising, so that you have to be affected person or buy extra mature vegetation.

one in every of SA’s favorite shrubs, The Hydrangea (Christmas Flowers)

We South Africans fondly name the Hydrangea ‘Christmas Flowers’. It is because these stunning shrubs are all the time a riot of wonderful blues and pinks through the Christmas season. Many individuals within the UK and the States know them as ‘Hortensia’. Brides usually use them in bridal bouquets on account of their stunning pastel colors and prolific flowers.

Many individuals bear in mind hydrangeas from their childhood. My mother’s backyard had a row of beautiful, giant bushes that all the time flowered for months, and the flowers have been all the time part of the Christmas desk association. Sadly, her bushes have slowly diminished, primarily on account of some extreme droughts we had a couple of years again. These are thirsty shrubs; you should water them nicely in our baking scorching summers to allow them to bloom and thrive.

Hydrangeas are nice for shady backyard areas however do higher in mild or dappled shade somewhat than full shade. They like well-composed soil and luxuriate in good feeding. Amazingly, you may alter their bloom color to blue or pink by altering the soil’s acidity.

How do you modify the bloom color of your Hydrangea shrubs?

For blue hydrangeas, make the soil extra acidic by including acidic peat. Feed vegetation with 25g of aluminium sulphate dissolved in 5 litres of water at two-week intervals from early spring onward. For pink hydrangeas, make the soil extra alkaline by including agricultural lime. Mud lime on the plant’s roots and water them nicely at two-week intervals from early spring onward.

How do you stimulate your Hydrangea shrubs to provide extra flowers?

Many of the Hydrangea shrubs obtainable listed here are deciduous and flower higher when you prune them again in Autumn after their flower season ends. Nevertheless, this mentioned, the fragile, dry flowers and skeletal petals are so magical that many people go away them on the bush for so long as doable. Some even use dried flower heads of their floral preparations to create a shocking impact.

Right here’s a fast run-down of the 2 hottest varieties that we get in South Africa


‘Mopheads’, or Hydrangea macrophylla, are the preferred backyard hydrangeas. Most ‘Mopheads’ that gardeners develop as we speak are blue or pink, relying on their soil acidity. A couple of varieties are white.

The common pink and blue varieties within the Western Cape are all the time obtainable on the nurseries. Recently, now we have a couple of beautiful cultivars, like Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Maritzburg’ with darkish pink flowers and white centres. Additionally, the ‘Infinite Summer time’ varieties, which promise to bloom all summer season lengthy, can be found by way of our wholesale contacts. They arrive in shades of blue and pink and the white ‘Blushing Bride’. Macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ is an easy-to-grow mophead hydrangea which produces shiny blue flowers in acidic soil. In alkaline soil, flowers are lilac to mild pink.


Hydrangea macrophylla normalis or ‘Lacecaps’ have come onto the market extra broadly in South Africa in the previous couple of years. You may develop them precisely the identical as mopheads. We love them for his or her flatter flower heads and delicate petals frill. Hydrangea ‘Candy Goals’ is a stunning Lacecap obtainable by way of one in every of our wholesale nurseries, Malanseuns, Macrophylla ‘Woman in Purple’ is a white Lacecap hydrangea with flowers that mature to a deep crimson.

Duranta Erecta shrubs, often known as ‘Saphire showers’

The Duranta erecta is an unique shrub that will get plenty of sprays of darkish blue flowers, which magnetize butterflies. This shrub is offered in its pure bush type and commonplace vegetation to type extra of a small tree. The vegetation and their flowers have a pure, beautiful drooping look. This shrub is extraordinarily hardy and in addition doesn’t require a lot upkeep. They flower higher when planted within the solar.


The widespread title for this shrub, which has fairly mauve or purple flowers, is the September bush. The showy flower petals are superbly marked with darker veins. Other than the most typical purple flowers, additionally, you will be capable to discover this shrub with pink, scarlet, or white colored flower petals. Because the title suggests, this shrub begins blooming in early spring.

This evergreen shrub, which grows to a peak of 0.6 to 1.8m, can also be indigenous. You may develop it efficiently in coastal areas in addition to extra inland. Due to this fact, it’s appropriate for varied gardens and backyard kinds. Moreover, it’s a comparatively low-maintenance plant that can also be waterwise.

In a brand new backyard, it’s glorious as a fast-growing windbreak or hedge. Furthermore, this vibrant shrub can develop in most soil sorts, from full solar to semi-shade. Its progress is extra lax, producing fewer flowers within the shade. Nevertheless, it grows fortunately within the tough pockets that change from full solar to semi-shade with the seasons. We love this shrub for its plenty of pinky-purple sweetpea-like blooms carried in small clusters on the ends of quick branches.


Some new hybrids of the September bush shrub are actually obtainable in the marketplace. One among them is the brand new white type referred to as ‘White feathers’. The leaves of the white type are barely greyer and distinction with the plenty of small, white blooms masking the bush.

Polygala myrtifolia and its relations, the smaller-growing Polygala fruticosa and the extra upright model, Polygala virgata, are long-flowering shrubs that appeal to birds to your backyard. Moreover, these flowering shrubs additionally appeal to bees, butterflies, and chameleons to the fynbos backyard. If you could study extra about Fynbos backyard designing, try our weblog.

Polygala myrtifolia works nicely in the back of a fynbos backyard with different giant shrubs like proteas (Proteaceae) and pincushions (Leucospermum), restios and evergreen shrubs. They may also be used as pioneer shrubs in a brand new backyard due to their quick progress fee and talent to bloom when very younger vegetation. The smaller, rounder type of Polygala fruticosa works very nicely as a shrub for the center or entrance of the fynbos border, with its neat spherical mounds needing about 0.6m to exhibit their greatest form.

Pruning your Polygala Myrtifolia shrubs

Polygala myrtifolia responds nicely to mild pruning in Autumn or when the bush turns into a bit leggy. This encourages a bushy behavior, however it’s pointless on some vegetation or in case you are glad to permit it to turn into tree-like. They’ll develop right into a small tree as much as about 4m if allowed to. Older vegetation can begin to look untidy and woody, so heavier pruning is usually essential to preserve them bushy and flowery. Polygalas, basically, do nicely with a very good layer of mulch masking their roots in summer season to maintain them cool. This helps to maintain the moisture in and allows them to have low water wants as soon as established.

Strappy and sword-shaped shrub-like leaf vegetation


Phormium tenax and different Phormiums. (The widespread title for Phormium tenax is New Zealand Flax) These strappy/sword-leaf, clump-forming vegetation are available in varied colors and sizes. Relying on the sort and dimension, you should utilize it for mass planting, planting in small teams or specimen planting. Furthermore, Phormiums make incredible pot vegetation, mixed with groundcovers planted round them to cascade out of the pot. These water-wise, low-maintenance vegetation choose both full solar or semi-shade.


Cordyline australis (aka Cabbage tree or cabbage palm) and different Cordylines. These strappy-leafed shrub-like vegetation look just like Phormiums however differ in that their leaves are a bit thinner and droopier. As an alternative of clump-forming vegetation, Cordylines develop on a cane stem. Varieties like Australis and Banksii are extra sun-loving vegetation, whereas Cordyline terminalis is a broader leaf selection extra applicable for protected, shadier areas.


The widespread title for Sansevieria trifasciata is the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. Much less well-known are the Sansevieria Hyancinthoides & pearsonii.

All Sanservierias are sword-shaped succulent vegetation. They, all being succulent, are extraordinarily water-wise and just about arduous to kill except you handle to drown them. Furthermore, they may develop indoors and indoors in solar, semi-shade and even very shady spots. Gardeners use these hardy vegetation in many various circumstances. Keep in mind that they are often fairly invasive typically, spreading by way of underground stems.

Yucca gigantea & different succulent shrubs

Yuccas are giant rising succulent shrubs with sword-like gray/inexperienced leaves on prime of thick cane-like stems. At some stage of their lives, in addition they get giant heads of white flowers, which, imagine it or not, are edible. This shrub is extraordinarily architectural and crowd pleasing.

Dasylirion wheeleri shrub

This succulent shrub is a plant that grows on a brief stump and has symmetrical rosette-packed spikey gray leaves with caramel brown break up ends. This shrub can also be very architectural. It seems to be nice when mixed with succulents and cacti, because it initially comes from Mexico. This shrub could be very water-wise and likes full solar, so plant it in a sunny space.


Juniperus scopulus ‘Skyrocket’. This conifer is pencil-shaped and appears just like the ‘Stricta’. Nevertheless, it has extra of a blue-grey color. Amazingly, it could actually attain a peak of 6m however will solely develop about 60cm large.

Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’ This conifer, which grows wider, is eye-catching due to its shiny inexperienced/ yellowish color.

Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’ is a pencil-like, skinny, darkish green-leaved conifer that is incredible as an architectural plant. Though it grows very tall, it doesn’t develop large. Gardeners love that it could actually develop in smaller locations planted shut to at least one one other. These conifers remind me of Tuscan and Mediterranean gardens, the place individuals usually plant them in lengthy rows subsequent to at least one one other.

Massive leaf semi-woody Shrubs

Alocasia – These large-leaf tropical vegetation come in several sorts with totally different color leaves. Some will develop outside in shaded areas, whereas others must develop indoors. Though they don’t recognize full daylight, they’re really fairly water-wise.

Philodedrons, varied. These large-leaf shrubs are available in many shapes and hues. They’ll develop each indoors and outside in shady or semi-shaded circumstances. My favourites are Philodendron Xanadu, with fissured darkish inexperienced shiny leaves, and Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’, with maroon leaves.

Monstera deliciosa – This extraordinarily large-leafed plant has shiny darkish inexperienced leaves with holes, resulting in its different widespread title, ‘Swiss cheese’ plant. It’s a climbing plant naturally discovered rising up timber, so watch out as it could actually turn into invasive. The Monstera deliciosa can develop indoors and outside and makes a incredible pot plant. It does greatest when one grows it in shady or semi-shaded areas. Plant in pots to regulate progress.

Strelitzia Reginae & different Strelitzia – These indigenous shrubs have spathe-like tough grey-green leaves and get bird-like blooms on stiff leaf stems. The Strelitzia Reginae will get orange and blue blooms, and the Mandela’s gold has yellow and blue flowers. Moreover, you get the Strelitzia Juncea, off which the leaves by no means absolutely open. These water-wise vegetation do greatest and can flower greatest in sunny areas however may also be grown in half-sun areas.

Heliconia’s – Heliconia’s leaves are just like these of the Strelitzia. They get extraordinarily decorative, brightly colored waxy bracts. Relying on the sort, these waxy bracts will probably be on upright stems, or some varieties will grasp down. These vegetation belong in additional tropical gardens and shouldn’t be planted in sunny positions.

Unusually formed leaf tropical vegetation

Gunnera manicata—The Brazilian big rhubarb is a plant with big, deeply lobed leaves. This clump-forming perennial often grows greatest alongside streams and in damp areas and likes well-composted soil. It grows about 2.5 m excessive and may attain virtually 4m large. It’s greater than usually dormant in winter. This plant may be fairly tough to supply.

Acanthus mollis – This clump-forming evergreen perennial has fascinating, deeply lower, shiny inexperienced shiny leaves and boasts spikes of creamy white flowers with purple bracts. These spikes really make actually good cut-flowers. This plant can both be planted in full solar or semi-shade.

Aloes, Cactis and different succulent vegetation used as architectural focus factors.


All Aloes are extraordinarily hanging in plant and leaf form and their eye-catching flowers. It is a huge household, and all are so totally different. The tree Aloe or Aloe barberae is a hanging architectural giant rising succulent shrub. Moreover, Aloe ferox and thraskii are additionally very architectural and stand out, making any backyard extra fascinating. I like to recommend buying an Aloe e book to find out what you want to and what’s applicable in your backyard when you like these vegetation.


Agave attenuate (Fox Tail Agave), Agave geminiflora (Twin Flower Agave), and others. These succulent-like hardy vegetation are extraordinarily powerful and don’t want a lot care. The Agave attenuata is a softer gray/inexperienced leaf plant that was extremely popular in landscaping. It wasn’t available for some time because it skilled a illness, however it’s slowly changing into extra obtainable once more. Remember that some Agaves are invasive and shouldn’t be planted.

Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’

This variegated succulent perennial kinds a fountain of upright, lengthy, sword-shaped leaves. The contrasting colors of shiny inexperienced and creamy white are very eye-catching. On account of its form and colouring, this plant is likely one of the most architectural. It’s a type of vegetation that’s tough to kill and intensely water-efficient.

Euphorbia ingens, & tirucalli

Euphorbia ingens is an indigenous spiny, succulent medium to giant tree. It may ultimately attain a peak of 6m. Though this tree is extraordinarily form-like and enticing in its form, please contemplate planting very rigorously because the tree has a really toxic latex, and the thorns may be fairly harmful. It wants little or no care and could be very water-wise.

Euphorbia tirucalli is a big succulent shrub or small tree with pencil/branch-like stems. When grown in full daylight, these stems can show shiny yellow, peach and pink colors. This plant doesn’t have spines, but it surely does have toxic latex.

Cyathea’s and different ferns

Cyathea (Alsophila) brownii & dregei – Tree ferns have an old-world really feel and remind me of prehistoric occasions. The massive fern leaves that unfold out sit on an uncommon trunk. Remember the fact that tree ferns and ferns, basically, choose sure circumstances. Develop in a shaded, protected place with little sunshine or wind in good-quality composted soil. Keep in mind that tree ferns want area to develop as they develop fairly large.


Beaucornia recurvata – This unusual-looking plant is often named Ponytail palm due to its leaf construction. This evergreen perennial has an expanded or swollen caudex (or backside stem) for storing water. The skinny, strappy inexperienced leaves cascade, giving it that ponytail look. This plant may be grown indoors and outside, and it’s a very water-wise plant.

Phoenix roebelenii – The pygmy date palm is a stunning small palm with a slender trunk topped with a dense crown of fine-textured, shiny inexperienced fronds. This palm may be grown indoors and outside in full solar or half shade. This palm can both be single-stemmed or typically it should multi-stem. Reasonable to low water necessities.

Reeds & Restios

Elegia tectorum (Cape thatching reed)– This plant has an upright, symmetrical, tufted reed-like look with skinny, darkish inexperienced stems. These are topped with brown flowers. This indigenous plant really does prefer to be watered and may be grown subsequent to water streams and so on

Elegia capensis (Horsetail restio) – This indigenous plant has a drooping look, bamboo-like stems and feathery needle-like leaves. It belongs in moist areas alongside streams, subsequent to ponds, and so on, however may be grown in sandy soil so long as it will get sufficient water.

Cyperus papyrus (Paper reed) – This perennial sedge native to Africa kinds tall stands of reed-like swamp vegetation in shallow water. It should both be grown in water or obtain a number of water.

In conclusion, this checklist consists of solely a few of the commonest shrubs and different standard vegetation used as architectural vegetation. There are such a lot of extra that one may focus on, reminiscent of bamboo, Cycas, Cycads, and so on. Including these architectural vegetation to your backyard will certainly change its look and make it extra fascinating and trendy. Watch out to analysis and select the right plant, as lots of the above-mentioned shrubs and different architectural vegetation are usually not small vegetation and can occupy giant areas in your backyard.

Article written by Jessica Ruger (Procurement at Contours Landscapes and Contours Design Studio and Horticulturist).

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