One of the toughest indigenous shrubs, Buddleja salviifolia is evergreen with attractive grey-green leaves. It bears lovely clusters of fragrant, white, cream, lilac, or purple flowers in late winter or early spring.

These plants are fast-growing and can be effectively used for screening or to create windbreaks. With pruning these plants can be kept youthful and shapely.

Buddleja salvifolia shrub in flower.

Family:                   BUDDLEJACEAE        (Buddleja family).

                                     Alternatively Scrophulariaceae (in broad sense) (Snapdragon Family)

Name Derivation:

  • Buddleja – named after the Rev. Adam Buddle (1660 – 1715) an English amateur botanist and vicar of Farnham, Essex.
  • salviifolia  – 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:                 636                         Zim Number:            835

Features of Buddleja salviifolia



  • 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.  

Stem and Bark:

  • Most often multi-stemmed.
  • Bark on older branches is striated and grey-brown.
  • Young branchlets and shoots covered with white or grey woolly hair, the branchlets are often square.
  • Branches often droop, giving the plant a soft, feminine look.
Buddleja salvifolia bark.

The bark of older Buddleja salviifolia stems is grey and brown and striated.

The leaves of Buddleja salvifolia are simple, lanceolate and wrinkley on the upper surface.

Buddleja salviifolia leaves are simple, opposite, lanceolate, and wrinkly above.

Clusters of Buddleja salvifolia flowers.

Buddleja salviifolia flowers are small but clustered together on large terminal clusters.

 Thorns:          No Thorns.


  • 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.


  • 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.  

Fruit:      Small capsule between Oct and Dec.

Growing Buddleja salviifolia


In the Garden:

Buddleja salviifolia 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.
  • May also be used to create windbreaks.
  • 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.
Buddleja salvifolia grow in a garden with other shrubs.

A Buddleja salviifolia grown in a flowerbed with other indigenous plants in an events venue garden.

Buddleja salvifolia lilac flower form.

A pale mauve flowered form of Buddleja salviifolia.

A white flowered Buddleja salvifolia.

A white flowered form of Buddleja salviifolia.

A pink flowered Buddleja salvifolia.

Flowers of a pink flowered form.

Soil Needs:                

  • Almost any soil, but best in a fertile soil.
  • Used to stabilize embankments and stream, furrow and riverbanks.


  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Prune back harshly to stop the plant from getting lanky.

Cold Hardiness:                  Very cold hardy.

Water Requirements:        

  • Drought hardy but thrives on regular summer water.
  • Will happily grows in very wet conditions.
  • A water-wise plant.

 Light Requirements:          Full sun, but also partial shade.

Space Requirements:        Plant 3 -4 metres apart, closer for thick screening.

Roots:          The roots are quite aggressive.

Ecology of Buddleja salviifolia


Some birds are attracted to the insects that visit these shrubs.


  • The flowers are a good source of pollen and nectar for bees.
  • Buddleja salviifolia is often planted by bee farmers as a source for bee food.

Butterflies and other Insects:

  • Many insects, butterflies, especially Painted Ladies, and moths visit the flowers.


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

Poisonous:                 Not poisonous

Buddleja salvifolia flowers attract bees.

Buddleja salviifolia flowers provide food to Honey Bees during late winter and early spring.

Buddleja salvifolia growing in habitat in the Cradle of Mankind.

A Buddleja salviifolia growing in habitet in the Cradle of Mankind.

A thicket of Budleja salvifolia in habitat.

A natural thicket of Buddleja salviifolia growing in Oak Tree, north of Krugersdorp.

Notes of interest:

  • A pioneer tree that indicates areas that could 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.
  • Beekeepers sometimes plant Buddleja salviifolias to provide food for their bees.
  • The wood is used to make assegais and fishing rods.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the WC, EC, Les, KZN, Esw, 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 species of the Buddleja genus.

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


Boon, Richard  “Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa, a Complete Guide”  2nd ed. 2010  Flora & Fauna Publications  Durban.

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

Coates Palgrave, K C, edited Coates Palgrave, M C  “Trees of Southern Africa”  2002  Struik Publishers  Cape Town

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

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

Johnson, David & Sally & Nichols, Geoff  “Gardening with Indigenous Trees” 2002, Struik Publishers  Cape Town

Mutshinyalo, Thompson. T.  “Buddleja salviifolia”  2001 Plantza, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens   Link:

Palmer, E & Pitman, N  “Trees of Southern Africa Volume 3”  1973  A A Balkema  Cape Town

Schmidt, E, Lotter M  Cleland W  “Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park  2002  Jacana  Johannesburg

Van Wyk, A, van den Berg, E, Coates Palgrave, M & Jordaan, M  Dictionary of names for southern African trees”  2011..Briza Publications  Pretoria

Wikipedia  “Buddleja salviifolia”     Link