August in the Garden

The sap is rising and most of nature awakens once more in expectation of another spring and major growing season to come… It is time to think about composting, planting, making pretty and tooling up. Visit your closest GCA garden centre to check out what’s in, and what’s in bloom!

Tie a knot somewhere: Wednesday 9 August is National Women’s Day, which means that you will have a public holiday in the middle of the week to spend in the company of ladies first, and then with plants!    

Trending: Potted trees and hot leaves

Page through any decor magazine and you will see thick stalks with dramatic leaves, gracing huge glass vases as decor items. You will also notice that bold leaved houseplants like the old ‘parlour palm’ and lush potted trees indoors, are in fashion again. Consider Ficus microcarpa (nitida) and Ficus benjamina as perfect trees to grow in large pots on your patio and also indoors. To complete the ‘jungle look’ which is so trendy this year, also plant  Philodendron selloum, Dracaena varieties and Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Bamboo palm)  in patio pots.  

Smart Planting for days of Powerful Flowers

Delosperma ‘Wheels of Wonder’ is a new-age vygie with big shiny flowers from early summer to early winter. It is drought, disease and frost tolerant, and perfect for full sun.

Lavandula varieties – Unusual purple spikes of flowers hold waving mauve petals from the top. There are also varieties available in white and pink. Excellent in mixed containers, as well as a hot, sunny border. Drought tolerant once established. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies.

Argyranthemum ‘Angelic’ and ‘Madeira’ – these ranges of daisy bushes produce an abundance of flowers on compact plants. The flowers are produced above the foliage and appear from early spring right through the summer season. Beautiful in full sun and moderately fertile garden soil, with good drainage. Regular light pruning will promote compact growth. Plants are wind and salt tolerant.

Gazania – There is a wide range of gorgeous Gazanias – plant these pretty ranges together with other indigenous spring flowers like diascias, nemesias, lobelias, bacopas and osteospermums to create your very own patch of Namaqualand. Gazanias are also perfect companions for succulents and aloes, as they enjoy sunny conditions and little water.

Lotus berthelotii (Pelican beak) – is a trailing plant with long stems covered in needle-like silver grey leaves. Red, orange, or yellow flowers depending on the form, and resembling parrot’s beaks, appear from late spring. These plants want need sun and very well-drained soil. They’re ideal to use in hanging baskets, retaining walls and rock gardens. Lotus dislikes too much water and heavy frost.

Summer Scent

The star of the show is star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) with its masses of scented white blooms. Grow it as a climber, sprawling shrub, a low clipped ground cover or even as a standard! Indigenous wild Jasminum multipartitum can be used either as a climber or as a loose shrub, and produces scented white starry flowers in summer.

Other colourful plants to look out for at your local GCA centre:

  • Osteospermum varieties
  • Bush and trailing geranium varieties
  • Cuphea varieties
  • Fuchsias, Zantedeschias (for semi-shade)
  • Don’t forget to: Plant masses of clivias to add spring to your shade.

Get your roots in!

If your wintergreens like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are all harvested or spent, take advantage of the still cool weather for quick sowings of carrots, beetroot, radishes and turnips which germinate well in low ground temperatures. They have a much better flavour in cool months and save space as they ground downwards. They are also perfect for crop rotation after growing members of the cabbage family (which are gross feeders) as they prefer poorer soil.  

Bedding besties – Petunias

Petunias are colourful annuals which can be planted all year long. On a philosophical level, this might be the top annual to plant in great swathes if one feels the need to look at happy flowering faces. And on an esthetical level, there could not possibly be another annual plant that is available in so many colour shades and growth habits than the petunia – cascading for hanging baskets and retaining walls, in miniature form for small spaces, upright-growing with large blooms for eye-catching flower beds, and ground-hugging, long-flowering gap fillers for everything in between!

Look out for a new Petunia hybrid, ‘SuperCal’: A cross between calibrachoa (mini petunia) and Petunia. It is pH tolerant, day length neutral and can be grown cool. The foliage is not sticky, so flowers drop easily from the plant as they age and plants hold up well in all kinds of weather. Popular for its unique colours and abundant flowering power, SuperCal is ideal in hanging baskets or mixed containers – find this new range at your local GCA Garden Centre today!”

Rose care for August

If not done so in July, roses can still be pruned in August, especially in very cold areas. Climbing roses require attention this month. To open up space for new growth, older branches can be removed, and the remaining stems from the previous season, tied to a support, as horizontally as possible.

Tying stems horizontally activates all the eyes along the stem, which then produce shoots and flower. The result is many more flowers along the stem rather than just a few at the end, if they are allowed to grow upright.

Pruning duties

Early spring is the perfect time to prune woody shrubs, especially foliage plants which are not influenced by a specific flowering season. They will re-grow fast as the temperatures start rising. It is sometimes necessary to prune quite drastically to knee height, in order to encourage new growth at ground level once again, cutting out ugly old bare branches below, rather than allowing them to sprout new growth at eye level. So, if some of your shrubs have grown into bare legged, gnarly old bushes with just some growth at the top, bite the bullet now!

Plants that can be pruned firmly include poinsettia, plumbago, tecoma, hypericum, heliotrope, solanum, canary creeper, golden shower and buddleja, which will have finished flowering.

Do battle with snails  

Snails and slugs in winter rainfall areas will give it their best shot to feast on all your soft new spring growth and plantings, in late winter and early spring. Make life difficult for them in the garden by using organic or chemical snail pellets, but to stop pellets from disappearing into the soil or falling into the wrong hands, cut a plastic bottle in half. Bury it into the soil with the neck end just peeking out. Feed pellets into the opening. This will ensure that only the snails get to them.

Feeding is priority now

  • Your garden is awakening from a long and cold winter… boost your plants’ energy levels and invigorate the soil to ensure you get the best out of your garden this season:
  • Feed spring-flowering bulbs with specialised bulb food.
  • Feed hydrangeas with specialised acid fertiliser if you desire blue flowers.
  • Supply a fresh layer of compost to all beds, feed with a general slow releasing fertiliser, water well and apply a final layer of mulch.
  • Feed tropical fruit trees.



  • Feed roses, if not done so after pruning in July.
  • Feed acid loving plants like azaleas, gardenias, camellias and brunfelsia with an acid fertiliser, to correct yellowing leaves and mulch with pine needles or pine bark. Find these elements at your local GCA Garden Centre.

Lawns need love

August is lawn time! If there is one area of your garden that absolutely needs your attention, it’s the lawn.

‘Spring Treatment’ refers to the low mowing, spiking, feeding and firm raking of your existing lawn. Lawn Dressing (available at all GCA nurseries) is then applied in a generous layer covering the existing lawn so just the tips are visible (1 bag should cover 2 – 3m²). Water deeply and consistently for the next week, until your lawn rejuvenates.

Take note:

  • Lawn dressing allows you to ‘level’ your lawn – apply extra to dips and hollows
  • Lawn dressing is NOT recommended for seed grasses ie. All Season’s Evergreen/Shade Over/Bermuda grasses

Container wisdom

Potted feature plants are most likely in desperate need of rejuvenation! Feature plants should be repotted with fresh soil every 3 – 4 years. A ‘quick fix’ option prior to re-potting is to remove the top layer of old soil and replace it with fresh potting soil and compost. Incorporate water polymers and slow release fertiliser, water deeply and cover with a layer of mulch. Annuals make an excellent ‘living’ mulch and also add to the colour and aesthetics of the container – otherwise use bark chips, pebbles or similar.

Hanging baskets needs sprucing up?   

Our favourite August recommendations for spectacular hanging baskets include:

  • Miniature or compact growing Bougainvilleas – sun  
  • Pelargonium peltatum hybrids (Ivy leaf geranium) – sun
  • Cascading petunias (of which there is a huge colour range available) – sun
  • Calibrachoas  or mini petunias (of which there is a huge colour range available) – sun
  • Begonia ‘Dragon Wings’ available in red or pink – light shade

Hot tips: Remember to add a water retention product to the potting soil before planting up your baskets, as it helps to retain moisture in the soil for longer. Another secret to successful hanging baskets, is diligent and regular feeding with a water soluble fertiliser. Your local GCA garden centre will have everything you need to plant up pretty hanging baskets.

Start planting summer bulbs

In late August you can start planting all the beautiful summer-flowering bulbs like gladiolus, calla lilies, cannas, spider lilies, George lilies, tuberoses, galtonias, schizostylis, liatris, crocosmias, eucomis, and storm lilies.

Tool time!

Now that gardening is going full steam ahead, be sure that you have quality tools on hand to do the job. Buy a good spray can for applying insecticides and liquid fertilisers. A cheap one will be a bad buy as the spray nozzles and pump mechanisms are delicate and may break easily. A can with a 5-litre capacity can be carried around with ease. Those with a larger volume are heavy and need to be carried on your back like a rucksack while spraying.

Inland gardening

(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Spring clean the whole garden – prune, weed and do a general cleanout to see what you have and what you need.
  • Do not be in a hurry to remove the frost covering on frost sensitive plants yet.
  • Be on the lookout for cancer-affected aloes. Visit your local GCA garden centre for some options on treating them.
  • Up-cycle your patio – use old wheelbarrows, boots, leaking buckets or discarded kitchenware as containers for herbs, succulents or other plants. Take time to display all you have planted up in an artistic way to please your eyes and senses.   
  • Repair and paint old trellis frameworks or burglar proofing panels, and use them as a framework for small vertical gardens against a wall to grow herbs, or fix them horizontally to be hanging places for light-weight hanging baskets or very fashionable kokedamas.
  • Planting roses in their still dormant state, allows them optimum growing conditions and plenty settling time before the hot weather in the approaching months.
  • Plant these flowering seedlings by the end of August: lobelia, impatiens, petunia, dianthus, lobularia, marigold.

Coastal gardening

(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • If you want to cultivate grapes in your garden, the time is now, in the colder months, that you need to purchase and plant your vine stocks.
  • Divide overgrown flaxes, ornamental grasses, agapanthus and daylilies.
  • Safeguard your garden against damage by the August winds. Make sure that all standard roses, young trees and shrubs are securely staked.
  • Revive your indoor plants by cleaning the leaves with a wet cloth or leaf-wipe tissue and give each plant a diluted dose of liquid fertiliser.
  • Fruit trees will enjoy a mulch of kraal manure and an application of 8:1:5
  • If your soil is very alkaline, you can start thinking of sowing and collecting the following for your summer garden: Californian poppy, campanula, dianthus (pinks) iris, kangaroo paw, lavender, sage, rosemary, westringia and thyme.
  • If any veggies or flowers look a bit jaundiced or down and out after winter, treat them to a product containing seaweed to pep them up. It stimulates ground organisms which results in stronger root development, enabling the plants to absorb nutrients and moisture much better.    

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