From the hot, arid desert of the northern regions to the Mediterranean shore to the dense tropics of the central and south, Africa is a diverse continent that boasts a stunning array of native plant life. Gardeners interested in cultivating African flowers have a long list to choose from, ranging from tropical blooms to unusual flowering succulents.
A native of northern Africa, oleander (Nerium oleander) is a large flowering shrub that may grow to be 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide in ideal conditions, though it's usually about half that size. Varieties such as the "Petit Salmon" reach a diminutive height of about 4 feet. Oleander is notable for its long, dark-green leaves and its showy flowers, which may be pink, red or white, depending on the cultivar. Plant oleander in full sunlight in USDA zones 8 to 10. The shrub isn't picky about soil, though it likes a little water during summer droughts. A member of the dogbane family, oleander is poisonous and should never be ingested.
Also known as spire lily, summer hyacinth (Galtonia candicans) is a flowering perennial that hails from South Africa. The plant grows upwards of 3 feet tall, producing bell-shaped white flowers and attractive dark foliage. The flowers are quite fragrant. Summer hyacinth works well in beds and borders, and makes a suitable cut flower, thanks to its sturdy stems and long-lasting blooms. Plant summer hyacinth in full sunlight in USDA zones 7 to 10, preferably in a fertile, well-draining soil that's kept moist to the touch. Summer hyacinth is generally hardy, although slugs and snails may become a problem.
A member of the milkweed family, carrion flower (Stapelia spp.) is a distinct-looking flower native to the deserts of tropical Africa. Growing to be about 2 feet tall, the plant boasts cactus-like succulent green stems and pointed, fleshy flowers that resemble starfish. The flowers may be deep purple, white or even variegated, depending on the cultivar. Carrion flower is a desert plant, and will look its best in partial shade or filtered sun in USDA zones 9 to 11. Plant in a well-draining rocky or sandy soil, or in a container with a commercial cactus potting mix. Withhold water during the winter.
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