Asystasia gangetica is a lovely groundcover that gets miniature Mackaya bella-like white flowers.



Asystasia gangetica is an attractive groundcover with dark green leaves and masses of miniature Mackaya bella-like white flowers. It grows well in the partial shade of tree canopies as well as in full sun. It is a must for butterfly friendly gardens as it is the larval host to a number of garden butterfly species.

Family:                                 ACANTHACEAE                (Mackaya family)

Name Derivation:

  • Asystasia – means inconsistency and refers to the corolla that is more or less regular, unusual for Acanthaceae members.
  • gangetica – after the Ganges River in India.

Common Names:

  • Asystasia, creeping foxglove (Eng), rankvingerhoedjie (Afr) and isihobo (Zul).
Form:                                   A spreading, leafy groundcover.

Size:                                      45 cm by 60 cm.


  • White tubular flowers, 1.5 cm wide.
  • Borne 1 to 3 at a time on a short upright inflorescence.

Colour:                             White with purplish speckles on the lower lip.

Fragrant:                          Scented.

Flowering Months:        Sep – Apr, all year in warm climates.


  • Evergreen, may frost back in cold weather.
  • The simple leaves are ovoid, (4 by 2 cm), tapering to a pointed tip.
Asystasia gangetica, Creeping foxglove, has white, tubular flowers that have an intricate purple pattern on the lower lip.
Besides its showy white flowers, Asystasia gangetica has attractive dark green leaves.
Asystasia gangetica is free-flowering through the summer and autumn in Gauteng, in warmer climes it flowers all year.
Thorns:  No thorns.


  • The fruit is a small capsule that ‘explodes’ to disperse the seeds.

 In the Garden:

  • This plant is a useful groundcover for shady areas under trees.
  • Equally suited to mass planting in sunny areas provided the area receives regular irrigation.
  • Well suited to containers and planters, where their trailing habit can be put to good effect.
  • May be used with Dietes grandiflora and Clivia miniata for a contrasting texture.

Planting spacing:    3 per square metre.

Soil Needs:

  • Will grow in all soil types given enough compost.


  • A reasonably high maintenance garden plant.
  • Requires regular feeding and watering.
  • Requires fairly regular pruning to keep it in control.
  • Like many soft herbs, A. gangetica is susceptible to attack from dodder (Cuscuta campestris).
Cold Hardiness:                Fairly cold hardy, may frost back.

Water Requirements:

  • Needs regular water to maintain a lush appearance.

Light Requirements:     Partial shade to full sun.

Roots:                     Not invasive.

Birds:                     Insectivorous birds will forage among the plants.

You need to look closely to see the full beauty of the Asystasia flowers.
The Common Diadem (Hypolimnas misippus) uses Asystasia gagetica as a larval host plant.
Insects and Butterflies:

  • Bees and other insects feed from the flowers.
  • Asystasia gangetica is larval host to Common Diadem, Yellow Pansy and Blue Pansy, all regular garden butterflies in Gauteng.
  • Elsewhere it is larval host to Brown Pansy, Soldier Pansy, Common and Cloudy Mother-of-pearl.

Medicinal:                          No medicinal use found.

Poisonous:                         Not Poisonous.


Notes of interest:


  • The leaves are prepared and eaten as spinach.
  • Very closely related to Mackaya bella, which was once called Asystasia bella.
  • Two subspecies are recognized, gangetica and micrantha, the latter is found in southern Africa.
  • There is a form known as A. gangetica ‘aurea’ that has attractive yellowish-green leaves.
Asystasia gangetica “auria” is a form that has attractive yellowish green leaves.
Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the EC, KZN, Swa, M, L, Bot, Nam and Moz.
  • Outside southern Africa its range extends to tropical Asia.

Natural Habitat:            Forests and woodlands.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.