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).


Features of Asystasia gangetica

Form:             A spreading, leafy groundcover

Size:                 45 cm by 60 cm.

Thorns:          No thorns.


  •  Evergreen, but may frost back in cold weather.
  • The simple leaves are ovoid, (4 by 2 cm), tapering to a pointed tip.


  •  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.

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

Fragrance:                 Scented


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

Asystasia gangetica, Creeping foxglove, has white, tubular flowers that have an intricate purple pattern on the lower lip.

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

Cultivating Asystasia gangetica

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.
  • Be warned that in the warmer, wetter regions of southern Africa and elsewhere it can be an invasive weed.

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


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

Cold Hardiness:

  • Fairly cold hardy, but may die back if exposed to frost.

Water Requirements: 

  • Needs regular water to maintain a lush appearance. 

 Light Requirements:          Partial shade to full sun. 

Space Requirements:          Plant 3 per square metre.

Roots:            Not invasive.


Asystasia gangetica flowers

You need to look closely to see the full beauty of Asystasia gangetia flowers.

Asystasia gangatica is a lovely groundcover.

Asystasia gangetica is free-flowering through the summer and autumn in Gauteng, in warmer climes it flowers all year.

A male Common Diadem
African Blue Pansy larvae feed on Asystasia gangetica

Common Diadem (top) and African Blue Pansy (below) larvae feed on Asystasia gangetica.

Ecology of Asystasia gangetica


  • Insectivorous birds will forage among the plants.

Bees:               Honey Bee friendly

Butterflies and other Insects:

  • 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-pearls.
  • This plant is also a larval host to some moth species.


  • No records of medicinal use in South Africa were found.

Poisonous:                 Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • The leaves are prepared and eaten like spinach.
  • Very closely related to Mackaya bella.
  • Two subspecies are recognized, gangetica and micrantha, the latter is found in southern Africa.
  • There is a form known as Asystasia gangetica ‘aurea’ 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.
Asystasia gangetica 'aurea'

Asystasia gangetica “auria” has attractive yellowish green leaves.


Botha, Charles & Julia  “Bring Nature back to Your Garden”  1995  Natal Branch of the Wildlife Society  Durban.

Honig, Marijke  “Indigenous Plant Palettes”  2014  Quivertree Publications  Cape Town

Joffe, Pitta & Oberholzer, Tinus  “Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, ASouth African Guide” 2nd ed. 2012  Briza Publications  Pretoria

Pooley, Elsa,  “A Field Guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region”  Natal Flora Publications Trust  Durban

Lithudza, Eliot & Reynolds, Yvonne,  “Asystasia gangetica”2004 PlantZA  Link

Wikipedia  “Asystasia gigantica”     Link

Woodhall, Steve  “Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa”  2nd ed 2020  Struik Nature  Cape Town

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 and 2021.