Bulbine frutescens – Shrubby Bulbine Groundcover
The succulent evergreen with fleshy, smooth, aloe-like green leaves is low maintenance and easy to grow. It spreads by underground rhizomes, creating clumps of growth that reach heights of eighteen inches and spreads of three feet across. In the fall through spring, it produces delicate, six-petaled, star-shaped, yellow flower spikes that grow twelve to eighteen inches above the plant, toward the sky. The variety “Hallmark” produces orange blossoms. Bees and butter- flies are attracted to the blooms. The fruit is a small, rounded capsule containing many black seeds that disperses in the wind when the fruit dries out. In addition to its landscape value, the plant is cultivated in some parts of the world for its medicinal properties. The sap inside the leaves is used to treat chapped lips, insect bites, bee stings, sunburn, and other skin disorders. A tea can be made from the leaves to treat coughs, colds, and arthritis. This fast-growing plant is hardy to about twenty degrees Fahrenheit. It may suffer some leaf damage in a hard frost but recovers quickly in the spring. It is drought resistant and can withstand long periods without water.
It grows moderately and likes supplemental irrigation during the hot, dry season. Plant it in full sun or partial shade and avoid reflected heat. It grows best in well-draining soil and is not very particular about soil type. Remove the spent flowers after they bloom to encourage more blossoms. It is easily propagated by dividing its tubers and offsets, and then replanting them elsewhere in the landscape. This ground- cover likes light applications of ammonium phosphate fertilizer in the spring. Use it as a ground cover in rock gardens and as a foundation plant, border, or understory plant with other succulents and cacti. It can also be grown in raised planters along narrow sidewalks and entryways. The plant is native to South Africa, where it grows throughout the dry valleys in parts of the Northern and Eastern Cape.