The ribbon bush with its attractive pink flowers is an excellent garden subject.
Hypoestes aristata is a fast-growing shrub that grows up to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy, dark green oval leaves and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescences. It flowers from May right through winter till early spring.
Distribution and habitat
It is usually found in dry thicket, forest and damp places from the Eastern Cape in the south to tropical Africa in the north.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The word hypo in Greek means “under” and estia means “a house”- referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.
Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds, like Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla), Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus), barbets, robins and thrushes.
Uses and cultural aspects
Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water.
Growing Hypoestes aristata
The ribbon bush can be propagated from both seeds and cuttings. When seeds are sown in August they will germinate in three weeks. It also tends to seed itself in the garden. You can collect a handful of seeds and sow them in containers or plastic bags until they are large enough to be planted directly in the garden. Ribbon bush should be watered well in summer but less in winter and it needs to be pruned back after flowering. It requires very little attention because it grows easily in the garden.
References and further reading
- Cavendish, M.. Encyclopedia of gardening, vol. 3.
- Eliovson, S. 1955. South African wild flowers for the garden. Cape Town.
- Joffe, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plants. Briza, Pretoria.
- Kruger, T.J.1973. Trees, shrubs and climbers, Bethal.
- Pooley, E.2006. Forest plants in the forest and in the garden, Durban
Lowveld National Botanical Garden