The oleander has almost stopped blooming, the hibiscus needs constant watering to stop the flowers from falling and the leaves from turning yellow, and even the lantana – which is really tolerant to the heat - is looking a bit droopy.
Tecina Capensis, more commonly known as Cape Honeysuckle, is something to consider for some colour, and I notice quite a lot of the fiery red ones doing well, despite the heat. The species name, capensis, means ‘of or from the cape’, is not closely related to true honeysuckle, despite its name.
It’s an evergreen shrub or vine with clusters of brilliant orange and deep red trumpet-shaped flowers, that typically bloom from autumn to spring, and in hot climates, they may bloom all year round. The shrub is 2m – 3m tall and wide, and as a vine, it may grow up to 7m – 9m long and may ramble up to 15m – 30m. It is a member of the Bignoniaceae or Trumpet Creeper family which are mostly tropical and has varieties in colors ranging from yellow, apricot, orange, and of course, red.
The plant is native to Southern Africa but has been cultivated in Europe, India, Singapore, the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans - and Australia, where unfortunately, it has become an invasive shrub. It is winter hardy for the most part, but the leaves and branches will die back at temperatures of 4c or lower. In Africa, the bark of the shrub has been used to make medicines for the treatment of bronchitis or gastroenteritis.
The Cape Honeysuckle can tolerate partial shade to full sun, and is happy in sandy or clay-based soil, but should be kept moist and well-drained. It may become invasive in warm, rainy climates or if watered excessively in dry climates, and it is suggested that watering be restricted to once a week in full sun and only once or twice a month in partial shade. Periodic pruning is necessary to improve stem/leaf density and maintain size, and to remove any winter damage, if any, and may be propagated by rootball division, stem cuttings, or layering.
Leaves, Blooms and Fruits
The leaves are odd pinnately, meaning there is a single terminal leaflet at the top of the structure rather than a terminal pair of leaflets, with brightly colored, trumpet-shaped flowers, measuring around 5cm long, arranged in clusters. The fruits are thin, long capsules that contain many seeds that are easily dispersed by the wind.
The flowers attract pollinators – and are much loved by hummingbirds in countries where these birds are native, and their nectar is good for all when there is little else for them to feed on. This plant is not considered toxic, and won’t harm birds - nor your pets roaming around under it.
In the landscape, Cape Honeysuckle may be used as a grand-scale groundcover, trained against a wall or trellis, or a large formal hedge. It can even be grown in a container on a balcony, and will grow in any type of planter, plastic, terracotta, wood, etc - just prune regularly before it gets unmanageable.
Rampant growth is the only downside unless kept under control, and most troublesome in warm, wet climates, and withholding water is one strategy to keep the plant well managed in a dry climate. Aside from controlling its size, frequent pruning will keep the plant dense and full - as untended they can get leggy and unattractively sparse. Another downside is that it attracts aphids and scale insects, both of which enjoy the plant's new growth and foliage, and spider mites and whiteflies might be a problem for plants grown indoors, but these can be controlled by the use of a sprayed mist of insecticidal soap but applied only when the plant has been watered and is well-hydrated. Wilted plants are more susceptible to damage.
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.