One of our hardiest indigenous shrubs, Buddleja salvifolia is evergreen with attractive grey-green leaves and lovely clusters of fragrant, white, cream, lilac or purple flowers in late winter or early spring. With a little pruning these plants can be kept youthful and shapely.

Buddleja salvifolia, the sagewood, is not only a very attractive plant, it is also one of our cold hardiest, able to withstand cold down to -12 degrees Celsius.

Family:               BUDDLEJACEAE        (Sagewood or wild-elder family)

Name Derivation:

  • Buddleja – named after the Rev. Adam Buddle (1660 – 1715) an English amateur botanist and vicar of Farnham, Essex.
  • salvifolia  – leaves like those of a salvia (sage).

Common Names:          Sagewood, (Eng), saliehout (Afr), molalathau (Nso), lelothoane (Sso), umbatancwepe (Swa), modiaṱholana (Ven), igqange (Xho) & ilothane (Zul).

FSA Number:                   637                  Zim Number:                 836

The small, tubular flowers are borne in attractive, tight sprays at the ends of branches.

  • A large shrub or small evergreen tree, often multi-stemmed.
  • Branches often droop, giving the plant a soft, feminine look.

Size:                                   3 – 4 m (–8 m) by 3 – 4 m.


  • The small flowers are borne in attractive, tight sprays at the ends of branches.
  • Each flower is a narrow tube about 12 mm
  • Flowers are sweetly scented and are white, cream, lilac or purple.
  • Flowering in late winter, the smell is one associated with our Highveld winter

Colour:                               White, cream, lilac or purple.

Flowering Months:          Jul – Oct.

Fragrance:                        Sweetly fragrant.


  • Evergreen.
  • Leaves are simple, opposite, lanceolate, quite wrinkly above.
  • Leaves are silvery-grey to dark green above and whitish to rusty, often hairy, below.
  • There is seldom a petiole, the leaf base wrapped around the stem.
  • The midrib and net-venation are prominent on the lower surface.

Thorns:                    No thorns.

Fruit:                        Small capsule between Oct and Dec.

The flowers may be white, cream, pink, lilac or purple, but the flower centers are always yellow.


  • Bark on older branches red-brown.
  • Young branchlets and shoots covered with white or grey woolly hair, the branchlets are often square.           
In the Garden:


  • Buddleja salvifolia is an excellent, fast growing, extremely cold hardy large shrub.
  • With its grey-green to dark green leaves it will add a contrasting colour to a garden.
  • It flowers at the end of winter, adding colour and fragrance when not much else is flowering.
  • It grows happily in most soil types, including very wet, marshy soil.
  • A good pioneer plant for stabilizing stream, dam and water furrow embankments.
  • May be grown and pruned into a hedge or used as an informal screen.
  • A good wildlife friendly plant, attracting insects and birds to a garden.
  • Popular as a bonsai subject.
  • Fast growing, up to metre or more in a year.
  • A water-wise choice.
A large shrub or small tree, Buddleja salvifolia is often multi-stemmed and has pendulous branches, so the plant looks soft and feminine.
Some plants have pastel pink flowers.
The African Leopard butterfly (Phalanta-phalantha-aethiopica) larvae feed on Buddleja salvifolia. Many adult butterflies feed from the flowers.
 Soil Needs:      Almost any soil, but best in a fertile soil.


  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Protect young plants against cold.

Cold Hardiness:                Very cold hardy.

Water Requirements:

  • Drought hardy, but thrives on regular summer water.
  • A water-wise plant.

Light Requirements:   Full sun, but also partial shade.

Roots:        The roots are quite aggressive.


  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these shrubs.


  • Buddleja salvifolia is host to the larva of the African Leopard butterfly.
  • The flowers attract many adult butterflies, especially the Painted Lady, and bees.

  • A root decoction is used to treat coughs and colic.
  • An eye lotion is made from an infusion of the leaves.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • A pioneer tree that indicates areas that would become forested were it not for fires.
  • A tea made from fresh or dried leaves is drunk with some honey but no milk.
  • The leaves are browsed by game.
Buddleja salvifolia is a pioneer plant and often indicates areas that would be forested if it were not for regular fires.
Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the WC, EC, Les, KZN, Swa, M, FS, NWP, G, L, western Moz and eastern Zim.
  • Its range extends northwards into Tanzania.

Natural Habitat:

  • Grasslands, fynbos, Nama-Karoo, forests, savanna-bushveld and thickets.
  • Occurs along water courses and riverine fringes, forest margins and on mountain slopes.
Links to other members of the BUDDLEJACEAE   (Buddleja family)

To go to the “plant blog” click on the plant name below the picture.

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