Forest bell bush - The Mackaya Bella

It is no surprise that Mackaya bella is also known as the forest bell bush or the river bell, for its elegant, white bell-shaped blooms. In Afrikaans, Mackaya bella is known as the bosklokkiesbos.

Did you know? Mackaya bella is from the Acanthaceae family, and falls under the shrub category.

The Mackaya bella is an evergreen shrub that boasts masses of white and light-purple flowers and glossy, dark green leaves. It does not grow to be particularly large, but is sizeable enough to make an impact in any garden, reaching an average height of three metres and a spread of about two metres.

Flowering time

The flowers of the Mackaya bella appear from early spring to early summer, adding colourful bursts to the garden at around this time.

After flowering, these shrubs should be pruned hard for the next season’s success. The fruits appear in about October and die away in December, usually.

Use in the garden

The pretty flowers of the Mackaya bella are as irresistible to insects, bees and butterflies as they are to humans.

The flowers introduce intriguing little creatures into the garden, which also contribute to the balance of its ecosystem. The blue pansy butterfly is a well-known feeder on this plant. It has also, traditionally, been used as kindle for its excellent fire-making properties.

Natural distribution

The Mackaya bella opts for subtropical conditions. In South Africa (to which it is endemic), it can be found from the very northern tip of the province of the Eastern Cape right through to the balmy climate of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. It can also be found in the Northern Cape.

Growing Mackaya bella in your garden

Canopy shade, dappled shade or just a few hours of sunshine a day work best for this plant. It is a moderate to fast grower and does best as a border or boundary plant, as filler between other species, or in a pot.

It needs soil with a good drainage system and thrives with plenty of healthy compost. If the leaves turn yellow, this is an indication that the plant is being exposed to too much sunlight.


The Mackaya bella grows well from cuttings that are taken in autumn or spring. These should be characterised by a semi-hardwood appearance. Should you have seeds, they must be planted during the springtime. Use a lot of good compost and water it regularly during the summer months, until it is well established and healthy. In winter, naturally, it needs to be watered less.

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