Scientific name: Melianthus major
Common Name: Honey Bush
Native to South Africa Melianthus major, also referred to as the honey bush, is a large shrub growing to a height of 3 metres with a spread of 1 – 1.5 metres. These fast growing perennial shrubs look great planted up in large decorative pots as an ornamental feature in patios/courtyards and small gardens. They also look great planted amongst other plants in large garden-beds and are a great option to fill a gap in the garden.
Racemes flower clusters of 1-2 feet long emerge in spring and summer to reveal eye-catching rusty red tubular flowers. The flowers are great for attracting bees and bird-life into the garden and look great when used in floral arrangements. Once the flowers finish blooming in late summer it is best to prune off the finished flower spikes as this will encourage strong healthy new growth. Prune old flower spikes back to the main stem.
Melianthus major can be grown in all day sun or a partially shaded position. Pictured above is of one that I planted a year ago in my garden from an 8 inch (20cm) pot and I have it growing in all day sun where it is exposed to the hot afternoon sun in summer. I would recommend mulching them with tanbark. Mulch them during the fist two summers, if planted out into the ground, as this will help them to establish their root system during the hot summer months. Heavy soils such as clay are not an issue as they can be grown in a vast range of soil textures. As they are fast growing it isn’t uncommon for them to send out suckers, root sprouts that grow from the base of the shrub. These same suckers can develop into new plants which can then be divided from the main root system and be replanted out into pots or the garden. When potting Melianthus major into pots or containers make sure to use a good quality potting mix.
Fertilise in early spring (september) to encourage strong growth and an abundance of flowers with Organic Fertiliser by Grow Better. I like this fertiliser as it is in a pallet form making the application quick and easy. Apply roughly one handful of the pallets evenly around the plant, and once applied water it into the soil. You can re-apply monthly or every 6 weeks. Fertilising can encourage more flowers during their flowering seasons and encourage strong healthy growth.
I first discovered Melianthus major when I was visiting Heronswood gardens back in 2015 and it has become a must have plant in my garden. They are tough, drought tolerant once established, have attractive floral displays and foliage. This is one plant that I will always have in my garden.
By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs