Africa also churns out quite a few plants that thrive in the heat. Here are six that can usually be found at garden centers.
1. Delosperma is a cheeky little groundcover that is as easy to grow as Sedum. It’s a very short spreader that likes its conditions hot and dry, rewarding gardeners with daisy-like flowers on short stems. The species that seems to be the hardiest is nubigenum (yellow ice plant). A hybrid series with larger flowers called Wheels of Wonder, introduced by Koichiro Nishikawa of Japan, extends the color choices.
2. Eucomis, or pineapple lily is worth the wait if you start them as bulbs. They are from Africa, and most of the taller ones don’t miss a step through the hottest days as they gear up for bloom production. Eucomis montana provides nearly two months of entertainment as it sends up a stem, and each individual flower opens slowly from the bottom to the top of the 18” stalk.
3. Hemizygia ‘Candy Kisses’ is a cultivar of a newly-discovered African species of wild sage. It’s a low-grower with tri-colored leaves and a brand new name. Don’t bother practicing your pronunciation
4. Commonly known as wild dagga in its native South Africa, Leonotis leonurus is one of the best autumn-bloomers for Midwest gardeners, its bright orange flowers standing tall and attracting pollinators and humans alike. It was one of the first South African flowers to be brought back to Europe for cultivation, and is known to have been grown in Holland in the 1600’s. It’s not easy to find at garden centers because it typically doesn’t bloom until it’s at least two feet tall and doesn’t look that great until then.
5. Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’: as long as you keep her out of the sun, or in dappled shade, this African hybrid of the typical Swedish ivy will take the heat in stride. Ball Horticultural Company of West Chicago has been responsible for propagation and marketing this variety in the U.S. Plectranthus ‘Cerveza ‘n Lime’: It’s the leaves that make this plant special—fuzzy, fragrant, and as pinchable as baby’s toes. One of the most flexible plants around, ‘Cerveza ‘n Lime’ can go from houseplant to container anchor for the most colorful heat-lovers.
6. Scadoxus multiflorus is a plant grown for its beautiful flowers. It also has been used in Africa as an arrow poison. Yes, the plant is toxic, so care should be taken around children and pets. The tricky part comes with getting it to bloom. The varieties most often available typically push up a flower stem before the bulb forms its leaves. So if you see attractive, waxy green leaves emerging straight up out of the ground, that particular plant probably won’t bloom that season.