Obtusa, repens and albostellata - The Barleria Genus

There are a number of subspecies of Barleria, which belongs to the Acanthaceae family, of which about 60 can be found in South Africa. All subspecies of Barleria are different, and have their own unique appeal.

Did you know? The three best known Barleria are, arguably, Barleria obtusa, Barleria repens and Barleria albostellata.

Barleria Obtusa

Also known as the Bush Violet, this plant boasts small, violet-coloured flowers during April and May. It is an evergreen shrub that grows particularly fast, and is ideal for small gardens and rockeries. The plant will grow as its surrounds allow, ranging from about a metre high in exposed conditions to two metres in shady, sheltered conditions. The leaves are soft, covered in a light hair, with a slightly blue hue to their green.

Flowering time

This plant flowers mainly during the autumn months of April and May.

Natural distribution

Barleria obtusa can be found naturally in the provinces of the Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It favours hillsides and margins of forests in the more humid areas.

Growing Barleria obtusa in your garden

This pretty shrublet grows well in full sun and semi-shade, and does particularly well in areas with winter rainfall, despite being hardy and adaptable. The one thing that Barleria obtusa does require is well-drained soils, and it thrives with regular watering.


Barleria obtusa has a seed capsule that goes hard and woody when it is matured, and explodes to release its seeds onto the surrounding ground. Regular pruning goes a long way in assisting with its growth rate. Flowering can be encouraged by nipping off shoots in spring and into the beginning stages of summer. It is quite easily propagated from seeds and layering too.

Barleria Repens

The tubular little flowers are known for their climbing and scrambling up around the surrounding plants. They usually only reach heights of up to a metre, but can get larger if they are climbing up a tree. They are evergreen with soft, dark green leaves. The fairly big flowers can be purple or a pretty pink-red. The fruit is shaped like a club.

Use in the garden

The flowers of the Barleria repens are effective in attracting insects. These then feed birds that live off the tiny creatures around the flowers. So, it is not uncommon to see bulbuls, bush shrikes and thrushes around these plants.

Flowering time

The flowers of the Barleria repens appear in the late summer and early part of autumn (between February and April). The fruits, on the other hand, appear between March and May.

Natural distribution

The Barleria repens appears naturally in the forests of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It also grows upwards towards the more tropical parts of the continent.

Growing Barleria repens in your garden

This plant needs to be monitored, as its branches can root as soon as they touch the ground. This requires regular pruning and control. It is hardy and adaptable, suitable for a range of different environments. Partial shade is best, as they tend to become unruly in full shade.


The best way to propagate this plant is from cuttings, which should only be transferred to the garden once they are growing strongly.

Barleria Albostellata

The pretty white flowers of this fairly large shrub are tubular, and the soft leaves have a grey shade to their fuzzy texture. Barleria albostellata reaches an average height of 1.5 metres and is evergreen in optimal conditions, but can become semi-deciduous in colder conditions.

Use in the garden

It attracts a number of insects and insect-eating birds, so the Barleria albostellata is a great shrub for those that want these little creatures in their garden.

Flowering time

The flowers of this plant bloom during the months of September to May. The flowers do not stay put for this entire period, but come and go throughout the blooming season.

Natural distribution

The Barleria albostellata prefers tropical and subtropical conditions, but can survive in cooler, drier conditions too. Preferring wetter conditions and well-drained soil, the Barleria albostellata grows well in the tropical and subtropical forests of South Africa, but can adapt to harsher conditions, if necessary.

Growing Barleria albostellata in your garden

The plant matures within about three years, and should be trimmed to about a third of its full-grown size during the winter months. Semi-shade is best.


The seed capsule bursts open when it is mature, allowing the seeds to be dispersed naturally. Supply plenty of mulch beneath the plant, and keep the soil cool and damp, even during the hot summer months. They can be propagated by seed or cutting

If you plan to travel South Africa to visit our magnificent botanical gardens and to enjoy our diverse plant life, start your search for accommodation in South Africa for your holiday. We wish you happy exploring and travelling.

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