Gardening for Frogs

Kay-Montgomery 1by Kay Montgomery.

Frogs and toads actually play an important role in the ecology of your garden. ‘They control the insect population in your garden’, says Kirstenbosch’s Ernst van Jaarsveld. ‘Insects make up the largest part of the diet of frogs, although they also consume slugs’, he adds.

Frogs are quite harmless. Each species has its own distinctive sound and most frogs are active in the cooler hours of the night or dusk when the air moisture content is greatest and moths and cockroaches are active.

Create a frog-friendly garden

‘The current publicity generated by the threatened extinction of certain species of frogs has made us all more aware of these small creatures and their role in the balance of nature. The 21st century ecologically-minded gardener now welcomes frogs and toads into the garden and regards them as fascinating, as well as useful, members of the garden clan’, says Ernst.

How do you create a frog-friendly garden? Start by installing a pond planted up with marginal, floating and submerged aquatics to attract frogs from different frog families. These are the plants that Ernst suggests for your frog garden:-


Floating aquatics: Water lilies (Nymphaea capensis, N. lotus) waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos), wateruintjies (Nymphoides indica) and fonteingras (Potamogeton thunbergii) provide a platform for frogs to perch on, as well as hiding places below the leaves. Their flowers also attract pollinating insects for the frogs to eat.


Marginal aquatics: Reed-like and other marginal aquatic plants provide an attractive habitat for reed frogs as well as good breeding places for toads. Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus, C. textilis) dwarf papyrus (C. prolifer) and Juncus lomatophyllus are good plants for small urban gardens.

Submerged aquatics: Water-grass (Vallisneria aethiopica), and pond weed e.g. Potamogeton pectinatus, P. pusillus and P. trichoides provide protection for tadpoles and encourage spawning. They also help to keep the water in a pond crystal clear.

Consider these tips when planting up a water garden:

Provide hiding places. Frogs, in particular toads, need a sheltered place to hide during the heat of the day and a place to hibernate during the dry season, e.g. under stones or logs and in tree stumps.

Provide dense shrubbery.

Install an outside light to attract insects. Solar options are useful and attractive.

Provide an evening shower. Turning on the sprinkler for a few minutes just before dusk during summer evenings will increase the popularity of your garden to frogs and toads.

Avoid harmful chemicals. Avoid spraying your garden with toxic chemical pesticides and herbicides.

The following frogs and toads are all found in the Knysna area and could be attracted to your garden: Arum Lily frog, Boettger’s Caco, Bronze Caco, Cape River frog, Clicking Stream frog, Common River frog, Common Platanna, Knysna Leaf-folding frog (endangered), Painted Reed frog, Rattling frog, Raucous Toad and Striped Stream frog. Please let us know if you find any of these in your garden.


Frogs and frogging in Southern Africa, by Vincent Carruthers (Cape Town: Struik, 2001) is a useful guide and includes a CD of frog calls.