I recently came across another perfectly colored and timed blooming plant for fall: Tecomaria capensis or, the commonly known, Cape Honeysuckle.
It all started when, on the way home from a family Colorado road trip last June, we stopped in the small Texas panhandle town of Clarendon to rest for the night and get a bite to eat. We ended up in a local Mexican food restaurant that evening. It had a bonus of being decorated with talavera pottery scattered throughout the venue. I noticed some of the pieces had price tags on them and were for sale – at 1/3 the cost of what I’d expect to pay in the Dallas area! Sure, we had a few souvenirs from Colorado packed away, but I decided it was A-OK to purchase one more souvenir in Clarendon, Texas. As such, I became the proud owner of a new beautiful pot to fill (unfortunately in the heat of summer) when I got home. I was up for the challenge.
When we arrived home from our trip we were indeed in the midst of the North Texas summer – not exactly the best time to plant. To make things worse, the “spot” in which I wanted to display my new pot was located in full sun. I thought I’d shop around at a few nurseries and home repair stores and simply see what plant or shrub seemed to be taking the heat the best. Lantana, moss rose, purslane, blue daze and autumn sage were looking good and are always superb choices for Texas heat, but I already had those beauties tucked around in the yard and I wanted something different.
I began looking at the small shrubs and grasses at Lowe’s one afternoon in July and came across a small section of very green, crimped-leafed, healthy shrubs in one gallon pots – and they had obviously been in bright, full sun for days. They were in the midst of various other shrubs that had wilted, yet these were still upright and firm. I had no idea the name of the shrub or if it bloomed when I first spied it, but nonetheless I planned to purchase it simply because I knew it could withstand the conditions of the selected location for my new talavera pot.
Reading the tag, I realized if all went well, I would reap stunning orange-red blooms if this shrub thrived until fall. Indeed it has, and it is simply gorgeous right now! Let me introduce you below to Tecomaria capensis or, again, the commonly known Cape Honeysuckle.
First of all, Cape Honeysuckle is not of the honeysuckle family although its blooms certainly resemble honeysuckle in shape and color (coral honeysuckle.) Also, sometimes you’ll find this plant listed as Tecoma capensis, as it was once thought to belong to the Tecoma group of plants that produce trumpet-shaped blooms such as Esperanza. Although it is a relative of this latter group, it is argued to stand on its own. Tecomas are typically from the Americas, while Tecomaria is from the Cape of South Africa – hence its common name.
Cape Honeysuckle is drought tolerant and enjoys full sun. It is considered an evergreen to part evergreen shrub and can grow up to 12 feet high with a width of 6 feet. Twelve feet is indeed too high for my taste and thankfully, this shrub takes to pruning extremely well. In fact, I saw a grove of Cape Honeysuckles last month in Las Vegas, individually rounded to a height of about 4 feet, and although shortened, they were all blooming!
Cape Honeysuckle thrives in both acidic and alkaline soil types and can tolerate seaside conditions. It is deer tolerant as well.
For me specifically, a minor disappointment is Cape Honeysuckle is winter hardy only to 25 degrees F. Thus, in my area of North Texas I must bring it inside during the coldest of winter. Those of you lucky enough to be in Zones 9 and to the south can enjoy Cape Honeysuckle planted in ground. (If you are on the cusp of Zones 8 & 9, you might get away with heavily mulching the plant and succeed in overwintering it outdoors.) I think it would create a spectacular hedge if you have a need for such and live in Zones 8b/9 and to the south.
Well, while I’d personally prefer to have it in ground due to its size, splendor, and attractiveness to hummingbirds, I must go back to the very reason I came across this beautiful plant in the first place – I was seeking something heat hardy that would complement my prized talavera pot. After all, Cape Honeysuckle is gorgeous whether it is in bloom or not, in ground or not, pruned or not, or, outdoors or not!
Until next time,