Bulbinel frutesence in my garden, Tarlton, South Africa
Camera : Kodak EasyShare C195
Back-ground texture by Kim Klassen
Bulbine frutescens is a popular, waterwise garden plant, especially when planted en masse as a ground cover, or in rock gardens. It is also cultivated for its medicinal properties. (I use the Latin name Bulbine frutescens to avoid confusion as the common names Bulbinella and Bulbine seem to lead to arguments in herbs circles. The plant I mean has long thinnish succulent leaves, and spike-like clusters of small yellow or orange star-shaped flowers.)
This wonderful indigenous plant (native to the desert grasslands of South Africa, it requires well-drained soil and is tolerant of very poor, dry soil) is, like Lavender, an outstanding remedy for minor burns, cuts and abrasions, and insect bites. Simply break off a leaf and squeeze the juice or jelly onto affected areas.
The ease of application makes this an excellent herb to plant with your culinary herbs just outside the kitchen door - not to cook with, but to use for kitchen mishaps like burns and cuts.
The juice of Bulbine frutescens also helps to stop bleeding. Use also for rough and cracked skin and lips, ringworm, and cold sores. Scabies also seems relieved by regular application, but remember that Scabies is caused by a small bug, so any treatment of scabies must be holistic and include thorough laundering and ironing of bedding and clothes (to get rid of family and friends!)
Bulbine is great as an edging plant provided you use something to curb its spreading habit. Plants spread by rhizomes to create lumps. Bulbine self sows freely, so seedlings may appear around the mother plant. Transplant seedlings when they have four leaves and well-formed root systems. Starting new plants is as easy as simply breaking off plantlets and potting them up until they are large enough to be planted in the garden. Division of clumps in spring yields many new plants.
Here I used a log to prevent the Bulbine from spreading into the pathway
It is a fast growing, branched, succulent perennial with fleshy, linear green leaves in opposite rows and clasping the stems at the base. It forms spreading clumps with greyish stems often bearing adventitious roots. The small 6-petaled star shaped flowers are carried on an upright, spreading raceme during spring (or occasionally at other times). The petals are either yellow or sometimes orange, which combines attractively with the fluffy yellow stamens to give a bi-coloured look. The fruit is a small, rounded capsule and contains black seeds which are dispersed by wind.
Easy to grow, waterwise, and a floriferous groundcover which requires minimum of care, Bulbine will look good all year round. It combines beautifully with blue dwarf agapanthus, flowering at the same time.
Bulbine frutescens is often used in landscaping where a drought-resistant, tough groundcover is required. This succulent perennial multiplies rapidly. Prune it when untidy. For best results it should be planted in well-drained soil preferably enriched with compost. The dead flower heads should be removed to encourage further flowering. These plants prefer full sun, but they will also grow in semi-shade for part of the day. Although it will grow indoors, it requires maximum light.