Indigofera jucunda, the River Indigo produces masses of spikes of pink and white flowers from November till March.
An attractive, evergreen, large shrub or small tree, Indigofera jucunda is a show stopper when in flower. With a multitude of clusters of small, pink and white flowers and soft form it brings a touch of femininity into the garden. Ideal for creating tree groves in small gardens.
Family:                 FABACEA        (Pod family) Sub-family:         PAPILLIONOIDEAE           (Sweet Pea family) The family Fabacea has been split into 3 sub-families. Caesalpiioideae, Mimosoideae and Papillionoideae Name Derivation:
  • Indigofera – bearing indigo, a blue dye that is obtained from several species of this genus.
  • jucunda – from the Latin word jucundus, meaning pleasant or pleasing.
Common Names:          River indigo, showy indigo (Eng), rivierverfbos, pronkverfbos (Afr), umsipane (Xho), and umnukambida (Zul).  SAF Number:                  226.4  
Form:                                A large shrub or small, graceful tree. Size:                                   2 – 4 m (–7 m) by 2 – 3 m. Flowers:
  • Small mauve/pink and white, pea-shaped flowers.
  • Borne in profusion on short racemes.
  • Plants in flower are very showy.
Colour:                               White and pink. Flowering Months:          Nov – Mar. Fragrance:                        Scented.
Indigofera jucunda, the River Indigo, in flower is truly spectacular, no wonder it is such a popular indigenous garden plant.
The blueish green leaves of Indigofera jucunda are pinnate, up to 10 cm long and alternately arranged on the stems.
  • Evergreen.
  • Bluish green leaves are pinnately compound to 10 cm long.
  • Leaflets are ovate to elliptical, 4 – 7 pairs and a terminal leaflet.
  • Leaf base may be heart shaped, 3 – 5 veined at base.
Thorns:                             No thorns. Fruit:
  • Long (5 cm), narrow (.5 cm), cylindrical pods (Feb – Jul).
  • The pods turn brown and when ripe they explosively split and twist spirally.
 Bark                                Grey-brown.
A young Indigofera jucunda, River Indigo, growing in a garden in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
In the Garden:
  • A showy shrub or small tree that deserves a spot of honour in all gardens.
  • Indigofera jucunda can be used to great effect to soften a small courtyard.
  • Can be used as a screen or in a mixed shrubbery.
  • An ideal plant to provide a bit of height in narrow spaces.
  • A wildlife friendly tree, attracting insects and birds.
  • It is a good subject for a large pot or planter on a patio, provided it gets enough water.
  • Indigofera jucunda should make a lovely bonsai subject.
  • Flowers last well as cut flowers in a vase as part of a floral arrangement.
  • Initially quick growing, up to 1 metre per year.
Soil Needs:
  • Most soil types, rich garden soil for best results.
  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • May be pruned to shape if necessary.
  • Protect young plants against the cold in winter.
Cold Hardiness:                Semi-tender, but mature plants withstand a fair amount of frost. Water Requirements:          Requires regular water during  summer. Light Requirements:        Full sun or partial shade.
The attractive clusters of flowers make Indigofera jucunda a garden winner.

Indigofera jucunda attract insects, which in turn attract insect eating birds, like the Bar-throated Apalis.

Roots:        The roots are not aggressive. Birds:
  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these trees.
Insects and Butterflies:
  • Bees visit the flowers.
  • Many butterfly species larva are known to feed on Indigofera plants .
  • The roots were used to treat intestinal worms.
Poisonous:                       Not poisonous. Notes of interest:
  • These plants have previously incorrectly been called Indigofera cylindrica and Indigofera fruticosa.
Natural Distribution:
  • Found in the EC and  KZN.
  • Endemic to South Africa.
Natural Habitat:
  • Savanna- bushveld and forest.
  • Grows on rock outcrops and rocky hill slopes, often with other trees.

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