Choosing Plants for a Successful Garden

by Jo-Anne Hilliar

Choosing Plants for a Successful Garden

It is important to decide on a theme or overall philosophy concept for your garden. A huge and time-consuming part of this is choosing the correct plants and plant combinations.

Your personal garden style should evolve and emerge in response to a number of factors:

  • Your personal taste and personality
  • The climatic conditions and geographical zone of your garden
  • Interior décor of your home, colour schemes and textures
  • The practical needs of your family
  • The amount of time you are willing to spend in your garden
  • Ability to work with the existing site and infrastructure
  • Your ability to be original and creative

Plant choice is not, unfortunately, as simple as buying a few of your favorite plants and planting them haphazardly around your garden. Careful consideration of the following factors is required when choosing plants:
Theme / Philosophy

The theme should compliment the style of your home as well as your personal style. The garden should be an extension of your home. Plants used indoors should share a similar characteristic to those used outside.


Consider your immediate climate and micro-climate in the areas of your garden when selecting plant material. The direction your home faces will impact on which areas of your garden receive sun/shade at which times of the day and are an important factor.

Factors such as sun, shade, rainfall, frost and wind are important considerations in the plant selection process. Choosing species endemic and indigenous to your area would be preferable as these are already suited to the particular climatic conditions.

Your plant selection should be functional and contribute the overall garden effect as well as be aesthetically pleasing. Each plant should perform a function such as adding texture, colour, accentuating a feature, creating height or body or acting as a filler or focal point.

Plant size and shape are essential in maximizing the look of your property. Arrange plants with varying heights and sizes to introduce body and volume to your property. They are useful in screening unattractive views and enhancing feature view points.

Scented and aromatic plants can create interest and atmosphere. Lacy, textured plants will soften hard features and strong planting combinations.

It is important to consider the characteristics of the plant material you wish to use in your garden to ensure a well structured and flowing landscape.

You need to consider the individual characteristics of each plant to ensure you achieve a harmonizing flow and well structured effect. By placing plants that compliment or contrast each other in terms of flowers and foliage, leaf shapes or contrasting textures, harmony and flow can be created.

To combine plants that work well together wither through complimentary or reversal contrasting textures and colours, the overall effect is one of unity and harmony throughout the garden and this is essential to overall success of the landscape.

The correct choice and combinations of plant material is not easy and requires careful planning, research, consideration and a clear idea of what you want.

Here are some of examples of the basic garden styles and the related indigenous/endemic plant choices:

  • Cottage / English
  • Formal French / Italianate
  • Meadow
  • Rock
  • Tropical
  • Modern Architectural
  • Succulent
  • Wild Forest


Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Xylotheca kraussiana African Dog-Rose TreeEvergreen
Tarchonanthus trilobus Campher Tree TreeEvergreen
Phygelius capensis Cape Fushsa ShrubEvergreen
Allophylus natalensis Dune False Currant ShrubEvergreen
Dimorpotheca cuneata Bride's Bouquet Bulb/FillerEvergreen
Dietes bicolor Peacock Flower Bulb/FillerEvergreen
Barleria repens Small Bush Violet GroundcoverEvergreen

Formal French/Italianate Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Buxus macowanii Tree Evergreen
Salix mucronata Cape Willow TreeDeciduous
Rhus pyroides Common Taaibos Shrub Evergreen
Jasminum angulare Wild Jasmine ShrubEvergreen
Kalanchoe thyrsiflora White Lady Bulb/FillerHighveld
Hypoxis hemerocallidea Star Flower Bulb/FillerDeciduous
Osteospermum jucundum Mauve Rain Daisy Groundcover Evergreen

Meadow Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Lonchocarpus capassa Apple Leaf TreeEvergreen
Syzygium cardatum Water Berry TreeEvergreen
Dissotis princeps Purple Wild Tibouchina ShrubEvergreen
Cyperus textilis Tall Str Sedge Shrub Evergreen
Crinum moorei Moore's Crinum Bulb/FillerDeciduous
Wachendorfia paniculata Common Butterfly Lilly Bulb/FillerDeciduous

Rock Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Thunbergia alata Black-eyed Susan GroundcoverEvergreen
Asystasia gangetica Creeping Foxglove GroundcoverEvergreen
Drosanthemum hispidum Dewplant Shrub Evergreen
Pycnostachys urticifolia Hedgehog Sage Shrub Evergreen
Bulbine praemorsa Common Bulbine Bulb/FillerDeciduous
Scadoxus membranaceus Dwarf Paintbrush Bulb/FillerEvergreen

Tropical Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Clerodendrum glabrum Cat's Whiskers TreeDeciduous
Ficus thonnigii Common Wild Fig TreeEvergreen
Turraea nilotica Bushveld Honeysuckle Shrub Deciduous
Erythrina humeana Dwarf Coral Tree Shrub Deciduous
Crocosmia aurea Falling Stars Bulb/FillerDeciduous
Dietes butcheriana Forest Iris Bulb/FillerEvergreen
Gloriosa superba Flame Lilly Groundcover Deciduous

Modern Architectural Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Raphia australis Kosi Palm TreeEvergreen
Thespesia acutiloba Wild Tulip Tree TreeDeciduous
Tylecodon paniculatus Common Butterbush ShrubSemi - Deciduous
Adenium multiflorum Impala Lilly ShrubDeciduous
Sansevieria metallica Giant Sanservieria Bulb/FillerEvergreen
Sansevieria pearsonii Spiky Mother-In-Laws Tongue Bulb/FillerEvergreen

Succulent / Dessert Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Acacia eriolaba Camel Thorn Tree Deciduous
Aloe pillansii Giant Quiver Tree Tree Evergreen
Pachypodium saundersii Kudu Lilly ShrubDeciduous
Tylecodon wallichii Yellow Butterbush ShrubDeciduous
Lampranthus aurantiacus Orange Aurantiacus Bulb/Filler Evergreen
Kalanchoe thyrsiflora White Lady Bulb/Filler Evergreen
Delosperma herbeum White Mountain Vygie Groundcover Evergreen

Wild Forest Garden

Latin Name Common Name TypeNature
Ziziphus mucronata Buffalo Thorn TreeDeciduous
Vepris lanceolata White Ironwood TreeEvergreen
Eugenia capensis Dune Myrtle ShrubEvergreen
Barleria albostellata Grey Barleria ShrubSemi-Deciduous
Zantedeschia aethiopica Arum Lilly Bulb/FillerEvergreen
Asparagus capensis Thorny Asparagus Bulb/FillerEvergreen
Asparagus densiflorus Emerald Fern GroundcoverEvergreen

Our next article will guide you in managing your garden, knowing what to do and taking control.
Written by Jo-Anne Hilliar Landscape Design Consultants Tel: 031 266 4650

Jo-Anne Hilliar Jo-Anne Hilliar

Jo-Anne Hilliar
Landscape Design Consultant
Tel.: 046 624 1429
E-mail: Send e-mail