Heritage in South Africa: Unearthing Garden Traditions and Knowledge

In honour of South Africa’s heritage month, we are celebrating our country’s incredible plants found at home, in our national parks and treasured UNESCO sites. Not only do these plants make our country proud as national mascots, but also as indigenous medicines and gorgeous symbols of our homeland. Read on to learn all about garden heritage in South Africa and how you can get your plants thriving.

The Rainbow Nation is Green with Garden Heritage in South Africa 

Though we may be based on the southern tip of the African continent and occupy only 2% of the world’s land surface, our country packs a lot of plant punch. We are home to about 10% of the world’s plant species and have eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites – half of which are flora-based. To say the least, we have a rich natural heritage in South Africa. Because of this, we have a lot of responsibility to honour and protect our biodiversity for future generations.

While there are national institutes like SANBI to safeguard our national biodiversity, we can do our part in our gardens and communities. 

Iconic Plants

Let’s explore our national plant, the King Protea, and our national tree, the Real Yellowwood.

King Protea

Not only do proteas represent our country’s cricket team, but also are a special emblem for South Africans everywhere. It was proclaimed the national flower in 1976 and symbolically, it has ties to change, transformation, diversity and courage. It is endemic to the country and is native to the Western Cape, but found in dedicated gardens around the country. It is a brilliant focal point, much like the iconic Strelitiza, and does well as a winter garden flower.
Proteas are known to require a little extra attention as they can be tricky to grow. They need acidic, well-draining soils and need to stay clear of clay grounds. Plant them in rocky spaces or sloped ground/mounds to encourage water run-off. While they are hardy, protect them from frost in colder conditions. To give them their best chance at thriving, apply Wonder Rose & Flower granular fertiliser. It contains a specially formulated blend of nitrogen and potassium for growth and disease resistance.

Also known as “Umkhoba” in isiZulu and “Mogobagoba” isiXhosa, this tree is a highly esteemed national symbol for many reasons. It is believed to have been growing amongst Mzansi’s landscape for over a hundred million years! It grows in Table Mountain, the southern and eastern Cape coasts, the Drakensberg through to Blouberg and the Soutpansberg in Limpopo.  The bark ranges in colour from khaki to grey and has high-quality timber valued for creating artisanal wooden pieces. To save it from overharvesting, it was announced as a protected tree under the National Forests Act 1998.
The best conditions for the Yellowwood tree include warm, moist, frost-free regions with high summer rainfall. After they are established they can live through moderate frost and have a moderate wind-hardiness. As such, they make for fabulous coastal garden plants in a sheltered and cool placement. To keep your yellowwood looking its best, give it Wonder Root Builder Bone Meal to develop strong roots and then Wonder Deep Green to enhance its nutrition uptake.

If you are planting your tree, refer to our guide for best practices. Keep in mind they can grow up to 40 metres in height and 3 metres in diameter, so provide adequate growing space.

Waterwise Wonders and Medical Marvels

In addition to our national icons, South Africa has dynamic plants that are medicinal and great choices for creating a water-saving garden.


This plant is also known as “unFayesele” in isiXhosa and “isAmbilane” in isiZulu, with about 11 varieties. Spekboom is found in the Eastern Cape and has been thoroughly researched for its many properties. It is fondly called a “carbon sponge” as it filters air pollution. Plus, it can survive on 250-350mm of water a year and is an incredible indigenous medicine used to treat exhaustion and dehydration. Discover more reasons to plant spekboom with our guide.

Cape Karoo Aloe

When wintertime comes around, this vibrant orange aloe is in abundance. Plus, this plant also has been providing incredible medicinal resources for over two centuries.

It is high in vitamins and minerals, as well as fatty acids and seven amino acids. The minerals alone include calcium, iron, phosphorous, copper, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, sodium and Vitamins A, C, E and Vitamin B12.

Traditionally, the leaf has been used to treat stomach issues like constipation, while the sap can treat arthritis, conjunctivitis and sinusitis. Have irritated or burned skin? It can be applied directly to the skin to provide soothing relief. In addition, it has antioxidant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.

To give your plants the best soil environments, prepare your soil by mixing in Wonder’s All  Purpose solutions range.

Plants endemic to South Africa

Be sure to learn more about these plants found only in Msanzi!

  • A Poker (Kniphofia leucocephala)
  • Bergeranthus multiceps
  • Bird of Paradise Flower (Strelitzia)
  • Conophytum violaciflorum
  • The Belladonna Lily
  • The Buck Bay Vygie
  • The Cape Strawflower
  • The Clanwilliam Cedar
  • The Cushion Restio
  • The Ebutsini Wild Yam
  • The False-waterberry
  • The Kammanassie Erica
  • The Keurboom
  • The King Protea
  • The Red Disa 
  • The Rhinoceros Bush
  • The Sharptip Brickleaf
  • The Silver Tree
  • The Tree Pagoda
  • The Venda Cycad

Keep Your Gardens Rich with Heritage in South Africa

Together, we can all work towards honouring our natural heritage in South Africa by educating ourselves and caring for our national plants. For more tips on seasonal and specific plant maintenance, read our collection of garden care blog posts.

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