Tetradenia riparia is a useful plant in that it flowers in winter when there is little colour in the garden. The misty lilac flowers contrast beautifully with dark purple Magnolia blooms or the magenta flowers of Azalea. In my garden they are in flower at the same time creating a perfect foil for Tetradenia.
The stems are slightly succulent and the aromatic leaves are heart shaped and bright green in colour, making a pleasing background plant during spring and summer. The leaves turn yellow and fall in autumn, prior to flowering. The Ginger Bush is fast growing and will flower in its first year. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants in spikes which differ in size and shape. The male flower spikes in profusion create more of the “mist” effect than the female flowers which tend to be more compact. The flowers usually appear when the plants are bare and are carried in the top section of the branches.
Plant in light, well drained and well composted soil. Mulch well. Tetradenia needs water in summer but not as much in winter. Plant in full sun, except in very hot areas where some shade will be beneficial. Pruning can be done after flowering. I cut mine right down after flowering, that encourages a nice bushy growth. Failing to do so, the plant becomes rather tatty and fails to produce a decent show of flowers.
Tetradenia riparia is associated with a moth of the predominately night-flying Noctuid family, but the flowers also attract other insects which are necessary to bring insect-feeding birds into your garden.
Name derivations: Tetradenia – having four glands; riparia – growing on banks of rivers. This plant was previously classified under the genus Iboza, which was derived from its Zulu name and apparently this refers to the aromatic qualities of the plant.