Asystasia gangetica is an attractive groundcover with dark green leaves and masses of miniature Mackaya bella like white flowers. It grows well in the 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.

Asystasia gangetica grown in a mostly sunny spot in Bakubung, Pilansberg National Park.Asystasia gangetica grown in a mostly sunny spot in Bakubung, Pilansberg National Park. 

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.

Flower:

  • 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.

Asystasia gangetica has very attractive fragrant white flowers.

Asystasia gangetica has very attractive fragrant white flowers.

 Foliage:

  • Evergreen, may frost back in cold weather.
  •  The simple leaves are ovoid, (4 by 2 cm), tapering to a pointed tip.
  • There is variety with yellowish leaves known as Asystasia gangetica “Aurea”.
The deep green leaves of Asystasia gagetica give a very lush appearance.

The deep green leaves of Asystasia gagetica give a very lush appearance.

Thorns:                           No thorns.

Fruit:                               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.
The yellow-leaved form, known as Asystasia gangetica "Aurea" used effectively as an edging to a sleeper path.

The yellow-leaved form, known as Asystasia gangetica “Aurea” used effectively as an edging to a sleeper path.

Planting spacing:    3 per square metre.

Soil Needs:                 Will grow in all soil types given enough compost.

 Care:

  • A regular maintenance garden plant.
  • Requires regular feeding and watering.
  • Requires fairly regular pruning to keep in control.
  • Like many soft herbs, Asystasia gangetica is susceptible to attack from dodder (Cuscuta campestris).

Cold Hardiness:                Semi-tender.

Water Requirements:    Needs regular water to maintain a lush appearance.

Light Requirements:     Light shade to full sun.

 Roots:                                   Not invasive.

Birds:                                   Insectivorous birds will forage amongst the plants.

 Butterflies:

  • 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.

Bees:                                        Bees harvest food from the flowers.

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 A. bella.
  • Two subspecies are recognised, gangetica, and micrantha which is found in southern Africa.
  • There is a form known as A. gangetica ‘aurea’ that has attractive yellowish-green leaves.
Asystasia gangetica will tend to require less water and will be more cold resilient beneath trees than in the open sun.

Asystasia gangetica will tend to require less water and will be more cold resilient beneath trees than in the open sun.

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) 2017.