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Heteropyxis natalensis

Family: Myrtaceae (Myrtle family)

Common names: Lavender Tree (E); umKhuze (Z); Laventelbom (A);

Native to: Southern Africa
An attractive small tree with a distinctive pale grey bark.

Heteropyxis natalensis













6m x 5m

Heteropyxis natalensis


A well-shaped, neat semi-deciduous tree bearing glossy dark green foliage that gives a wonderful seasonal display, turning to red in autumn. Small cream flowers are followed by tiny dark-brown capsules. The bark is grey and matures to creamy-tan with a contorted and flaky appearance.

Stony hilllsides and the margins of evergreen forest.
Heteropyxis natalensis attracts birds, butterflies, bees and beetles during the day and moths in the night.
The flowers attract the net wing beetle and you’ll see masses of them on your trees in February/March. Do not despair as they are harmless.
Water moderately throughout the year, reducing water in summer.
Low maintenance.
Water young plants regularly.
Protect the trunk from frost for the first two seasons, thereafter the tree should be strong enough to withstand frost.
Suitable for a small garden or a large container and very effective when planted in a grove.
Bushveld, Country, Rockery, Woodland
The crushed leaves are strongly aromatic, often smelling of lavender.
The leaves are narrowly elliptic with an entire margin. They are shiny light green above and dull below.
The veins are not very prominent.
Distinctive pale grey, appearing white. It flakes thinly to reveal the cream under bark.
A tiny, light brown capsule 2mm in diameter that splits into 2 valves, releasing the seeds after which the old capsules may remain on the tree for many months.
Seldom attacked by pests and diseases.

73 Responses

  1. Hi Lisa

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    With Ouklip, it’s advisable to prepare your planting hole at least twice the normal size and back fill with a quality topsoil/compost mix in order to give your tree a healthy and well-drained growing medium. Once established, the tree is likely to adapt and establish roots through the network of crevices.


  2. I live in the Waterfall area, near Midrand. There is an “ouklip” rock formation throughout the area which causes soil to drain very slowly in certain areas.

    I’m keen to plant a lavender tree, but see from the hole we have dug that some of the surrounds is damp, not water pooling though.

    Can I still take a chance of planting a lavender tree, even though it is not purely well-drained soil?

  3. Hi Dirk

    Most nurseries should stock Heteropyxis natalensis. The nurseries closest to you are:
    – Willow Feather Farm or
    – Grow Wild Nursery (Kyalami)


  4. Hi Izak

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The growth rate of your trees will depend on several conditions which include:
    – The initial size of the trees when planted;
    – The conditions at your location (climate, soil, wind, etc.)
    – The supplier from whom the trees were sourced. As growers use different planting mixes and maintain their plants differently, this can have an impact on the overall health of the plants which will affect their subsequent growth rate.
    – Initial planting preparation and on-going care of the trees.

    Depending on the above, Heteropyxis can grow between 0.4-0.8m a year. They can take 2-6 years to settle in before noticeable growth is observed.


  5. Hi Glenice
    I have planted about 30 Lavender trees in my garden last year [August]
    How long do they take to become nice big trees?
    I see they can grow up to about 6 m tall
    Many thanks in advance

  6. Ni Noreen

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    You could perhaps consider one of the following:
    – Heteropyxis canensis (Forest lavender)
    – Ptaeroxylon obliquum (Sneezewood)
    – Searsia pendulina (White karee)


  7. Hi

    I was so excited to find a smallish, non-aggressive root tree that can be planted in groves, but see that it is not sure if it will be suited to warm Paarl climate.

    What other small trees can be planted in grove in the Western Cape, please?

  8. Hi Uschi

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    As Heteropyxis natalensis is not naturally found in Cape Town, its success will depend on the microclimate in your location.

    Celtis africana can become large (12-15m) in some locations.

    Other options for you to consider are:
    – Ilex mitis (Cape holly)
    – Searsia pendulina (White karee)
    – Ptaeroxylon obliquum (Sneezewood)


  9. Hi Glenice
    How does the Lavender tree fare in Cape Town/Noordhoek, sandy soil, often windy? …. and will it grow in an area between houses with morning shade during winter months, i.e southern aspect of house?

    What about Celtis africana in Cape Town, sunny position – what height will it grow to please?

    Other small trees, ie 4-5 m please?

    Many thanks

  10. Hi Leigh

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    I’m not sure how Heteropyxis natalensis will fare in your climate. Perhaps check with your local nursery as they’ll know more. However, you could consider the following:

    – Halleria lucida (Tree fuschia)
    – Brachylenea discolor (Coastal silver oak)
    – Tarchonanthus littoralis Coastal camphor tree)


  11. Hi Glenice – I found your site while trying to find out what type of roots Heteropyxis Natalensis has. My brother lives in Maritzburg and insists I plant one and a Cunonia Capensis in a new garden I’m establishing in Stanford, in the Overberg region of the W. Cape.

    It’s a relatively small garden and I’m at my wits end trying to narrow down the trees to plant. We mainly need them for screening purposes and it appears that after about a metre, the soil on our plot is clay. We are very close to a river course, but I’m also told the soil varies quite a lot around here. Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that we have clay.

    I see that you have recommended trees to a few people on this thread and I wondered if I could also pick your brain. These are the absolute requirements – 1) non-aggressive roots 2) fast growing 3) screening therefore evergreen ? preferably 4) will grow in clay soil.

    Additionally, it would be good if they were hardy / waterwise / bird and bee friendly and fire resistant. Not too tall an order !!!

    We are in our sixties and have just built this home and so I guess no tree will grow too big in our lifetime and future owners can decide what they want to do if the trees by then are too big or shady.

    I’d be thrilled if you could give me your recommendations to help narrow down my list!

    Thanks and stay safe (and sane)!

    Regards, Leigh

  12. Hi Wendy

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It could be that your lavender tree is old. However, branches dying is also a sign of the shot hole borer which is ravaging many trees in South Africa. Look out for signs of what looks like chicken pox on the trunk of your tree. Also check out pictures on the Greenpop website which may help you identify this. If this is the case, you may be able to treat your tree through a local nursery or an arborist.


  13. Hi Glenice,

    I live in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. In 2003 we bough an old home with an already big lavender tree growing in an almost clump-like way. I started putting orchids and airplants into the tree as well as Spanish Moss to cover the orchid’s roots. A true beauty and very eye-catching.

    Last year we noticed branches of the lavender tree starting to die. Do you think the orchids and air plants are the cause, should I take it out or does the lavender tree (which is about 50 years old) die of old age?


  14. Hi Melanie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Reducing the canopy of a tree in an aesthetically conscious manner is best undertaken by a specialist. Try contacting Urban Forest who operate in the Johannesburg area and should be able to assist.


  15. Hi I have a Lavender tree in my small garden which over time has grown to approx is also in a raised bed which makes it higher . The crown is also about 6-7 metres across. During the winter month ( I am In JHB) when the sun is low I am getting very little sun into the garden. .
    What is the best way to reduce the height and spread without damaging the tree..
    Thank you

  16. Hi Yvonne

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It depends on what type of wind you experience. If you’re at the coast with constant, strong winds year-round, I’d recommend another species.


  17. Hi Lulu

    Thanks for visiting our site.

    The Heteropyxis natalensis does not naturally grow in the Western Cape. However, that doesn’t mean that it will not grow in your region. If your local garden centre stocks it, then chances are that the species is able to adapt to your local conditions.

    Another tree with an interesting bark to consider is Heteromorpha arborescens (Parsley tree).


  18. I managed to get 3 small (60cm) lavender trees at Cape Garden Center but see that they may not be successful in the Western Cape.
    I love the light colour bark and the idea of a mini mini forrest.
    What would you suggest for this effect?
    The nursery said I could return the lavender trees.

  19. Hi Vicky

    You’ve lots of options, depending on the conditions of your location:
    – Chlorophytum comosoum (Hen-and-chickens)
    – Chlorophytum saundersiae (Weeping anthericum)
    – Agapanthus praecox (Agapanthus)
    – Strelitzia reginae (Strelitzia)
    – Melinis nerviglumis (Mountain redtop)
    – Plectranthus madagascariensis (Variegated plectranthus)


  20. I have recently planted a grove of beautiful lavender trees and now I’d like to know what I can plant under them. Any suggestions, please?

  21. Hi Gordon

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Heteropyxis natalensis typically doesn’t respond well to transplanting and interference with its roots. However, given the relatively short since their relocation, I’d recommend that you possibly wait another 3 months before assessing your transplant success.

    All the best.

  22. Good Afternoon,
    In Parktown Johannesburg some years ago (15 or so) I planted five lavender trees together in a mini forest or copse. They thrived, grew tall and bushy and have provided pleasure for years. Owing to building operations I had to move them. A professional gardener removed them and after a few months transplanted them. The transplant took place about three months ago – October some time. None of them is showing signs of growing. They have all lost their leaves now. There is no green immediately below the bark. There has been very good rain and we watered them copiously both before and after the transplant. Will they recover do you think? How long should I wait to see if they will recover? I am very fond of these trees and am not keen to replace them. Thanks for your help.

  23. Hi Susan

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Heteropyxis natalensis may not be available in the Western Cape as it tends to favour summer-rainfall climates.

    However, you could consider:
    – Dais cotinifolia (Pompon tree)
    – Polygala myrtifolia (September bush)
    – Olinia ventosa (Hard-pear)
    – Diospyros whyteana (Bladdernut)


  24. I’m living in Montagu in the Western Cape and are very interest in the Lavender Tree.

    I had a small garden and looking for trees with non aggressive root system that can be planted close to a water feature / fishpond.

    Any other ideas will be appreciated

  25. Hi Renet

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    You could consider on of the following:
    – Apodytes dimidiata (White pear)
    – Ilex mitis (Cape holly)
    – Kiggelaria africana (Wild peach)
    – Dais cotinifolia (Pompon tree)
    – Cunonia capensis (Butterspoon tree)


  26. Hi, I live in Pietermaritzburg in a complex with a relatively small back garden and just got rid of a White Stinkwood tree. I would like to “replace” the tree with an evergreen that does not lose its leaves to provide us with the shade we have lost. Also, we have a problem with monkeys, so preferably not a fruit bearing tree?
    So I need a tree that will grow tall/wide enough to provide shade with a not too aggressive root system? Can you perhaps make some suggestions.

    Thank you

  27. Hi

    I live on the south side of Paarl in the Western Cape. I have a big garden looking for the perfect tree.

    The issue I am facing is that we get a lot of summer wind, and water in the summertime is also limited. I’ve planted olive and fever trees with success.

    I am currently looking at the Liquidamber and the Lavender tree.

    Any input or suggestions will be much appreciated.


  28. Hi Karin

    There are many other suitable trees. The key to selection is to understand your geographic location, the location of the planting space and the desired full-grown size of the tree.


  29. Hi Karin

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    By “grass”, I’m assuming you mean lawn? Yes, it will. However, please be careful when using mechanical edge trimmers to maintain the lawn around the trunk. We often encounter trees that have been ring-barked by the users of edge trimmers.


  30. Dear Glenice
    In addition to my question whether grass will grow underneath the lavendertree : will any of the other trees that you mentioned be suitable ?
    Thank you.
    Best regards Karin

  31. Dear Glenice
    I had to unfortunately chop down leopard trees because of the problems i experienced with the seeds. I am thinking of replacing them with lavender trees. Will grass grow underneath it ?

  32. Hi Obakeng

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The roots of this tree are considered non-aggressive so it can safely be planted 3m from any structure.

    It is available at most nurseries that stock indigenous trees – try Willow Feather Farm (Reitvlei).


  33. Hi.

    How is the root behavior of this tree. Where can I source it in Pretoria?

    Obakeng H Moatshe

  34. Hi Susan

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It’s normal for the bark to peel off the Heteropyxis natalensis (Lavender Tree) as it grows, so there’s no need to take any action about this.

    Regarding the leaves falling off one tree, again, that does tend to happen with this species. I’ve seen one tree completely bare while another tree just 4 metres away with a full crown of green foliage. Your trees are relatively young and probably need a few more seasons to acclimatize to their new home. Once they’ve settled, they’ll probably have synchronized patterns. Situations like this bear testimony to my belief that trees do actually have personalities!


  35. Hi, I’m in Knysna and have moved into a home with a number if Lavender trees planted quite closely together in a courtyard. They are about 3-4 m tall already and seem health but the largest one of them has bark coming off at ground level, almost completely around trunk, and the leaves are falling at an alarming rate unlike the others. Is there anything that can be done to cover the trunk or is this just normal?

  36. Hi Dee

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Heteropyxis natalensis favours well-drained soil. You could try to grow it in a drier area of your garden but enhance the soil with lots of compost and apply agricultural gypsum to help break up the clay.


  37. Hi I live in the Western Cape. Our soils are very clay. Will the lavender tree survive? Also will it prefer wet or dryer area in the garden?
    Thank you.

  38. Hi Louise

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The Lavender tree will be suitable for your goal. They can be planted from 0.7m apart, depending on your space.

    Yes, you can plant ground covers underneath them. You’ll get a marvellous effect with a mix of Chlorophytum saundersiae (Anthericum) and Crocosmia aurea (Valentine Flower) with the contrasting white and orange flowers.


  39. Hi. I am considering planting a grove (probably about 5 or 7) small trees as a focal point in the front garden of my new house. I want light coloured bark for interest and to accentuate the “forest feel”. Would the Lavender Tree be suitable and how close together should they be planted? Also can ground covers grow underneath them as I want to fill in underneath with a grassy type ground cover. I am in Durban (Kloof).

  40. I’m looking for a small garden tree that is frost hardy, with non aggressive root system that can be planted close to a house or wall. Preferable a flowering fruit bearing tree

  41. Hi Glenice
    Can this tree be planted next to a swimming pool?
    Will it grow in the Western Cape (CT)?
    Will it lift paving (like the water pear)?

  42. Hi Marietjie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Although lavender trees don’t naturally have a rounded shape, it may be possible with some selective pruning to lower the crown and encourage a more dense canopy.
    It’s best to use the service of an arborist for professional pruning which will enhance the tree’s shape as it is quite easy to deform your tree if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    All the best.

  43. My lavender tree was planted 18 months ago (it was 7 years old by the time). It is planted next to a huge palm at its left side and a 1,8 meter wall at its back. It has grown now
    tall and thin with lots of foliage at the top and little lower down. Can I prune it to get more of a round shape? If I can, how and when? I live in the lowveld?
    Thanks Marietjie

  44. Hi Isabel

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It should become more sturdy in time.

    Allow the lower side branches as these will feed the main stem. Once it is sturdy, these and be cut to give it a taller canopy.


  45. Hi Jade

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Perhaps the other two can do with additional compost and feeding with an organic fertiliser.


  46. Hi Ellouise

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The growth rate largely depends on your growing conditions and planting process, but you can expect approximately 0.8m per year in favourable conditions.


  47. Hello,

    Please help me. I planted 3 lavender trees 2 and a half years ago.

    They are planted in a row with about 3 meters between them. One is thriving and the other two are looking awful!

    Do you have any advise as to how I can make them better?

    Thanks a lot.

    Kind regards,


  48. My lavender tree grows in semi shade. It grew from a self seeded seedling in the neighbours garden. Though it has grown to almost 2M now it is still very thin – any tips or will lit become more sturdy in time?

  49. Hi Jeannie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The Lavender tree isn’t suitable to grow as a hedge as the foliage isn’t dense.

    Some good options to consider for this purpose are:
    Buddleja saligna (False Olive)
    Polygala myrtifolia (September Bush)
    Cassinopsis ilicifolia (Lemon Thorn)
    Dodonaea angustifolia (Sand Olive)

    For a shady position:
    Mackaya bella (Forest Bells)


  50. Good day, can we plant the Lavender tree as a hedge to screen off the neighbors garden? If so, how far apart?
    Is the tree ever-green? Does it have an aggressive root system?

    Jeannie Mentz

  51. Hi Jacqui

    Wow, that must be a stunning bonsai.

    I’d imagine that growing in a container would make the leaves a little smaller and it is also likely to become more susceptible to pest invasions. Perhaps try to adjust your plant’s growing conditions a little to make it more comfortable. You could try:-
    – changing the location – this could adjust the light, wind, orientation, etc.
    – adjust your watering schedule
    – feed the plant
    – change the soil as it could be depleted of nutrients.

    Also check with a bonsai specialist as they may have other suggestions.


  52. Hi, I bought a lavender bonsai tree and very new to this. What I have noticed is pests seem to be a problem and keeping the leaves small. But she is a beauty. Are they good to grow as bonsai.

  53. Hi Nirod

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The Heteropyxis is a stunning tree with a non-aggressive root system. However, to give it space to grow, avoid planting it less than 2 metres from a boundary wall.


  54. Hi

    This looks like a very nice tree. Can you advise on its root system and whether it can be planted close to boundary walls, etc?


  55. Hi Kate

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Yes, the lavender tree will grown in a semi-shade spot. It is naturally found on forest margins which would experience semi-shade conditions.


  56. Hi there,

    Will the lavender tree be able to grow in a semi shady spot? (Will get some sun in summer but not much sun in winter)

  57. Hi Terry

    Thanks for visiting plantbook.

    Unfortnately I’ve never encountered this before.

    As the trees are newly planted, it may be due to transplant shock. If this is the case, once settled, they will grow new, unblemished leaves.

    Give your trees some time to settle into their new home. Watch for signs of growth and check the new foliage for the dots.


  58. Hi,
    We planted 2 young Lavender Trees last month (middle March). They now have small black dots on the topside of the leaves. The undersides are clear. We live in KZN. Can you suggest what it is and how it can be treated?

  59. Hi Kobe

    Thanks for visiting our site.

    For the coast, try Buddleja saligna (False Olive) or Tarchonanthus camphoratus (Camphor Bush).
    Acacia karroo (Sweet Thorn) may also work as I’ve noticed that it grows fairly small near you.


  60. Hi

    They are classified as semi-deciduous – i.e. they loose their leaves for a very short period.


  61. Hi Dave

    That’s fantastic!

    Remember to add a little bonemeal and a slow release fertiliser when planting, and your trees will flourish.

    Kind regards

  62. We’ve just purchased two Lavender Trees from the Nursery in the Kruger Park near Skukuza for R35.00 each

  63. Hi Jeanne

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Most nurseries should be able to supply you with a Lavender Tree since this is a very popular landscaping tree. Check first with your nearest nursery that stocks indigenous species. Otherwise, visit one of the larger chain nurseries.


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