Hypoestes aristata Soland. ex Roem & Schult. var. aristata 'Purple Haze'

Common name: Ribbon Bush (E) Lintbos (A) uhlonyane (Z)
Family: Acanthaceae

H.aristata "Purple Haze"

The name Hypoestes refers to the calyx which is covered by the bracts. Greek - hypo- below and -estes referring to the calyx. The Latin aristata means bearing an awn, referring to the flower bracts.

The ribbon bush 'Purple Haze' is an evergreen shrub approximately 1m in height. It produces an intense show of deep purple flowers in the early to mid winter months in South Africa. The selection 'Purple Haze' was developed at the Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden by careful selection for flower colour, foliage colour and compactness of growth. Other colour forms are available. These include the normal lilac-purple, as well as pink and white forms which are not as showy and compact as 'Purple Haze'.

"Purple Haze"In its natural state the ribbon bush is distributed along the southeast coast of the country from the Eastern Cape through Kwa-Zulu Natal and then inland along the Transvaal Drakensburg and again on the Soutpansberg. It is usually found in reasonably thick vegetation often on forest floor and margins as well as in woodland and thicket bush clumps.

The ribbon bush is evergreen and flowers in winter when very little else is in flower in the garden. It is hardy to moderate frost, but can be damaged by black frost or severe cold associated with dry, icy winds. During the summer months the bush has a neat and compact appearance and is useful as a backdrop to a low, mixed, herbaceous border. It is also a versatile plant for out of the way plantings, which receive little or no water, and for harsh conditions such as road verges and traffic islands.

Growing Hypoestes aristata

Hypoestes is easily propagated from both seed and cuttings. Semi-hardwood or soft tip cuttings can be taken in the late winter or early spring (August - September) and placed in sharp horticultural sand to strike root. The use of rooting hormone powder is useful but not neccesary. Cuttings root quickly and can be transferred to nursery pots as soon as they are well rooted in approx. 4-6 weeks.

Seed is easily germinated in spring. However, due the plant's ability to catapult the seed out of the capsule when it is ripe, collection must be done on a daily basis before the seed is lost. Seed should be sowed on a germination medium and covered very lightly. Keep seedlings cool and out of strong sunlight until they are strong enough to be transplanted.

The ribbon bush is well known and cultivated all around the country. It belongs to a small genus of only five taxa in South Africa. The genus Hypoestes is a member of a large and widespread family of herbaceous perennials (Acanthaceae).


Andrew Hankey
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
June 2001


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