Some of the most beautiful plants in the world hail from Africa, which also features a huge diversity of plants, some of which are unique to this beautiful country.
If you want to know more about African flora, or you want to create your own tropical paradise, rockery, or you’ve got the perfect place for an unusual and captivating houseplant, African flowering plants will give you a plethora of options to choose from.
There’s an African flowering plant for every space you could have in mind, and you’d be surprised at the conditions they can adapt to, which can even be wildly different from their native conditions.
Some of the plants on this list you may even recognize – maybe you already grow them in your garden – as some have become renowned around the world for their ornamental value and astonishingly-bright colors.
Read on to discover some of the most beautiful plants in the world which are native to Africa.
Geissorhiza tulbaghensis ‘Tulbagh Satin Flower’
Part of the asparagoid lily family, this is one of the largest flowers of its family. It’s a relative of irises, gladioli, and freesias. It’s also referred to as the Tulbagh satin flower.
The genus name, Geissorhiza, comes from the Greek words for ‘tile’ and ‘root’ which references the way the tubers grow.
Tulbaghensis is named after Tulbagh, a town in the Western Cape where you can easily find this flower.
It’s native to quite a few places in the Western Cape, but wild occurrences of the Tulbagh satin flower are becoming increasingly rare, due to habitat loss, and invasive plants coming from abroad.
They’re naturally found in places which get a lot of rainfall in the winter.
These flowers love rock gardens, or being in containers, in freely-draining soil. They also bloom in their natural conditions from August until September, with beautiful white flowers with dark purple centers.
These plants also produce a lot of seed, which can result in a bright carpet of flowers, and this display attracts a lot of pollinators.
Clivia Miniata ‘Bush Lily’
Also known as the bush lily or the Natal lily, Clivia miniata is part of the amaryllis family.
The Clivia genus doesn’t occur naturally anywhere else in the world, making this a truly special plant.
The name of the genus refers to the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who was the first to cultivate this flower in England. In the 1800s, this plant first enjoyed world-wide popularity, being especially popular with the Victorians.
It grows in the woodland in South Africa and Eswatini, which may either be subtropical, coastal forests, or ravines in a forest at a high altitude.
A fairly maintenance-free plant, considering its ornate beauty, this plant likes partial shade which mimics woodland, or at a stretch, morning sunlight only.
It’s a great choice for shade gardens, or containers in low light conditions, providing bright pops of color above the stacks of long leaves.
This plant also doesn’t require a lot of water, making it a great choice for rockeries or drought-tolerant garden designs. It will, however, benefit from a lot of water in the heat of summer.
It does well both outside in containers in loamy soil, or as a houseplant. Flowers are yellow, orange, or cream, and open from springtime to the first few days in summer.
Amaryllis belladonna ‘Belladonna Lily’
Bearing small trumpet flowers which come in shades of pink and white, the Amaryllis belladonna hails from the Western Cape, and carries more than one common name.
Also referred to as the naked lady, the March lily, or the Jersey lily, this plant requires a lot of sun, and thrives in containers or rock gardens where water will quickly evaporate from the soil.
In its native habitat, it flowers just at the time when summer is coming to a close in the Cape.
This captivating plant can produce up to 12 flowers on a single stem, providing a lot of color wherever you choose to plant it.
Like all amaryllis plants, the belladonna lily produces a towering stem above the leaves, and this one gets to about 50cm high.
Pelargonium album ‘Pilgrim’s Rest Pelargonium’
The name ‘Pelargonium’ comes from the Greek work ‘Pelargos’ which means ‘stork’. It’s a ground-covering perennial, which grows in the Mpumalanga province in South Africa.
Its common name comes from the town of the same name, which is a protected heritage site, and attracted a lot of gold prospectors in 1873, and since the 1970s, it has been a museum.
This plant produces pale leaves which have a similar fragrance to apple-mint, and this plant prefers a shady position. Unlike some of the other plants on this list, it prefers rich, loamy soil.
It produces bright, pure white flowers, and can easily be propagated by taking cuttings.
Streptocarpus dunnii ‘Cape Primrose’
This lovely stemless perennial only grows a single leaf in its lifetime, making it a very unusual plant.
The cape primrose, or Streptocarpus dunnii, is also from the Mpumalanga region, and only produces flowers when the plant has matured after several years of growth.
When it does grow flowers, they bloom in a vivid shade of red during summer, and flowering is the plant’s swan song, as it dies after it’s produced the following seed heads.
Agapanthus africanus ‘African Lily’
A lovely agapanthus, this bulb will treat you to a magnificent globular cluster of flowers year after year, providing you over-winter it if you live somewhere cooler.
It produces its showy blooms during the height of summer, and while it prefers full sun, it will tolerate partial shade. The plant itself can reach 24 inches tall, with a single-globe head flower per stem.
Gazania rigens ‘Treasure Flower’
A member of the sunflower family, this Gazania, or treasure flower, loves being baked in the sun, though you will have to water it regularly!
In colder climates, it’s grown as an annual, but it is classed as a tender perennial. It’s a plant that stays fairly close to the ground, and flowers during the warmth of summer.
The flowers seem to glow in the sunlight, with their vivid orange blooms, and feature a characteristic stripe in the center of each petal.
These uplifting flowers open during the day and close at night or in cloudy weather.
Protea cynaroides ‘King Protea’
This is the national flower of South Africa, and it’s not hard to see why, as this plant produces impressive domed-shaped blooms around 12 inches in diameter.
In their native conditions, large plants can produce 6 – 10 flowers in a single season, but the gargantuan plants can produce up to 40 flowers on a single plant.
The name of the genus, Protea, comes from the Greek god Proteus, who was able to shift between different forms. It’s an apt comparison, as the genus encompasses a huge diversity of different flowers.
The word cynaroides references the appearance of the flowerhead, which looks like an artichoke, which is part of the Cynara genus.
These flowers make excellent cut flowers, as well as dried.
Crocosmia is part of the Iris family, grows from bulbs, and produces similar sword-shaped leaves to the iris, though crocosmia leaves are much, much taller.
‘Emberglow’ is a lovely variety which produces red-yellow flowers, and the plant spreads fairly easily, so it will need a lot of room to grow.
It’s best in the corner of a border in well-draining soil, in full sun.
The plant produces these eye-catching flowers in July and August, and they drape toward the ground from crescent stems.
This plant is fairly hardy, especially if it’s given some winter protection by some bigger neighboring plants.
During the winter, the foliage will disappear back into the bulb, and spring from the earth again once the weather warms up in spring.
Berkheya purpurea ‘Purple Sunflower’
A really captivating perennial, this plant is part of the daisy family. It’s native to South Africa, and grows from a single taproot.
In the wild, it readily springs up on the sides of mountains or sources of water, in places with a high altitude.
Foliage forms at the base of the plant, which resembles that of a thistle. The plant then produces a huge stem which is covered in thorns, and the flower will grow at the top, with pale violet petals, which become plum at the center eye.
Lapeirousia pyramidalis ‘Pyramid Cabong’
Another relative of the iris family, the pyramid cabong or Lapeirousia pyramidalis thrives in a desert-like environment, so a rockery garden in full sun is perfect for this plant if you’ve got the dry weather.
You can also grow this plant in pots, but the bulbs need to be planted in autumn, and water them well a couple of times in order to start them off.
While this plant may take more than one season to develop flowers, they are worth it. The flowers can vary, from a lovely light lavender to a bright white with purple hints, and produce a sweet fragrance.
Oxalis hirta ‘Hairy Oxalis’
In some places, oxalis have a bad reputation, as some species are considered very invasive.
It’s worth doing your research, and only growing some types of Oxalis in containers where the roots can’t naturalize in the ground, just in case.
This type of oxalis, like most, is very easy to grow, and hardly needs any maintenance.
It prefers full sun for at least part of the day, and loamy or even sandy soil, similar to its native Western Cape conditions.
One of the largest oxalis flowers, this plant produces reddish-purple blooms.
Bergeranthus scapiger ‘Polvygie’
Part of the fig-marigold family, ‘Polvygie’ or Bergeranthus scapiger is a drought resistant succulent, and like many plants in the genus, this is a dwarf plant.
It produces bright yellow flowers, and the leaves are a lovely display in their own right.
As a succulent, this plant needs sandy to rocky areas, and is best kept in a container where water will freely drain from the soil.
Other than that, this plant is extremely low maintenance, like many succulent plants.
Aloe succotrina ‘Mountain Aloe’
This aloe is rather beautiful, and produces deep crimson flowers on spikes.
It comes from the mountain regions of the Western Cape, and can grow as a single plant, or in groups.
While an aloe is a succulent plant, the mountain aloe is also a shrub, which can stretch to just over 3 feet tall! It’s part of the Asphodelaceae genus, and also goes by the name fynbos aloe.
The dead leaves of the aloe stay attached to the plant, and acts as thorny protection for the rest of the plant from curious or hungry animals.
Paranomus longicaulis ‘Woolly Sceptre’
Also known as the exploding baked apple, this is another plant in the Proteaceae genus.
This is a very curious shrub which produces bottlebrush-shaped, woolly flowers on a tall stem, in pink, brown, or white.
It grows quickly and flowers from spring to the first few days of summer in its native Western Cape habitat.
The strange, spoon-shaped leaves that develop near the top of the stem are a show all on their own. The word ‘Paranormus’ translates to ‘illegal’, referring to the odd, almost unnatural appearance of the leaves.
Freesia leichtlinii ‘White Freesia’
This beautiful plant produces pure white blooms, and the reverse of the petals are a light lavender.
Freesia leichtlinii is another relative of the Iridaceae family, and it’s fairly fuss free when it comes to growing it from a bulb.
The white freesia needs either full sun or partial shade, which mimics the conditions in its native Western Cape, and does particularly well in containers, where the water retention is much less than in the ground.
The plant can produce 2 to 8 buds on a single spike.
Eucomis comosa ‘Pineapple Lily’
Part of the hyacinth family, Eucomis comosa is renowned for its sweet scent and unusual blooms.
It comes from KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the Eastern Cape, and the plant grows from a bulb which needs a bright position with sun throughout the day.
You can also grow the pineapple lily in pots.
You can recognize this plant by its spear-shaped leaves which appear in summer, and have purple streaks on the reverse.
In late summer, the flowers grow atop a hollow stalk, and are pineapple-shaped. They come in white, purple, and cream.
Ammocharis longifolia ‘Malgas Lily’
Another relative of the amaryllis, Ammocharis longifolia or the Malgas lily needs full sun for as long as possible in order to thrive.
This plant produces elegant flowers in white and pink, which have the added benefit of being greatly scented.
It also needs neutral or alkaline soil, which is either clay or sandy. So long as you follow these needs, which mimic its native Northern and Western Cape habitats, it’s a plant that’s easy to care for.
Leonotis leonurus ‘Lion’s Tail’
Leonotis leonurus, or the lion’s tail, is a versatile plant which is resistant to drought as well as frost, making it a plant suitable for many climates.
It’s a perennial plant which flowers throughout the year, and it’s also a part of the Lamiaceae (mint) family.
The plant produces clusters of tassel-like blooms in tightly packed displays, which look a little like a candelabra. The flowers themselves come in white, orange, yellow, and cream.
It has a range of uses, from in cuisine, to medicinal purposes, which have helped treat headaches, fever, and asthma.
Dimorphotheca pluvialis ‘Cape Daisy’
Also known as the weather prophet, Dimorphotheca pluvialis is a member of the daisy family, and grows readily from seed with little trouble.
They are sensitive to colder temperatures, so you either need to plant them or sow the seeds well after the risk of frost has passed, or start them off indoors and move them outside once the weather gets warmer.
These flowers follow the sun, and almost flower continuously throughout summer until the temperatures drop. The flowers are a bright white, with a central disc which is purplish-brown.
They also close up when rain is coming, or when the sun goes in, which is where the name weather prophet comes from.
Leucospermum gueinzii ‘Kloof Fountain-Pincushion’
Another fantastic member of the Proteaceae family, Leucospermum gueinzii, or the kloof fountain-pincushion, is known for its unique blooms.
This plant produces an egg-shaped flower head which becomes flatter, around 12cm in diameter, with deep orange flowers that turn a brilliant red as the flower matures.
The kloof fountain-pincushion puts on this unique display between August and December in its native Western Cape, in a very small area near the south coast.
You can also recognize this interesting plant by its leaves, which are edged with red teeth.
The kloof fountain-pincushion does need the sunniest place in your garden, for as long as it can bake in the sun’s rays. It does require freely-draining soil in order to thrive, so you may want to keep it in a large pot or in a rockery.
Dimorphotheca tragus ‘Ox-Eye Daisy’
The ox-eye daisy, the Cape marigold, or Dimorphotheca tragus, is a very drought-tolerant plant, which adds rays of vivid color to any garden without much work at all.
While it’s native to the Northern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa, it grows very well in other countries. It’s a perennial, but in cooler climates it can be treated as an annual bedding plant.
You can recognize the ox-eye daisy by its elliptical leaves, which feature jagged edges, and the blooms themselves are shaped like a large daisy, coming in shades of white, yellow, purple, and orange, with a purple eye in the middle.
These flowers grow best in full sun in a sheltered position, in well-draining soil. Plant a load of them together to create an explosion of color into your garden.
Pelargonium cucullatum ‘Hooded-Leaf Pelargonium’
The hooded-leaf pelargonium, or pelargonium cucullatum, features a heady scent in its leaves, which gets stronger when you rub the leaves with your fingers.
It’s also edible, and it’s often included in baking, where it adds a light pink tinge. It’s also been used as a tea to settle the stomach, and as a poultice.
You can recognize this plant by its hairy stems, and the flowers which range from pinkish purple, to a reddish purple.
It needs full sun, and very light watering, and can reach a maximum of 60cm high. It isn’t a hardy plant, so you may need to keep it in a container or in a sheltered position on a rockery or as part of a border.
It has the benefit of being a fast-growing plant, where it will quickly fill any gaps in your garden with color and fragrance.
While these are just a glimpse into the plethora of Africa’s spell-binding flowers, they can also be grown in your own slice of paradise.
Nearly all of these plants are tolerant to tough, hot and dry conditions where others would simply die.
Over thousands of years, these plants have evolved some interesting tactics to survive their native coastlines, rainforests, mountains, wetlands, deserts and savannas, all the while producing captivating and stunning flowers.
Quite a few of Africa’s plants not only have unusual flowers which are instantly recognizable and draw you in for a closer look, but they also have a myriad of medicinal purposes, as well as being edible, making them truly breath-taking.