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Mackaya bella

Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus family)

Common names: Forest Bell Bush, Asystasia bella (E); Bosklokkiesbos (A);

Native to: Southern Africa
Shrub, Tree
A magnificent forest shrub bearing masses of white bell-shaped flowers.

Mackaya bella

SEMI-DECIDUOUS

SEMI-SHADE

SHADE

FROST HARDY

MEDIUM WATER REQUIREMENTS

FAST GROWER

FRAGRANT

ATTRACTS INSECTS

FLOWER COLOUR:

AVERAGE SIZE:

3m x 2m
FLOWERING TIME:
J F M A M J J A S O N D
FRUITING TIME:
J F M A M J J A S O N D

Mackaya bella

DESCRIPTION

Asystasia bella (formally Mackaya bella) is an attractive, semi-hardy, evergreen shrub which thrives in deep shade conditions. The glossy dark-green leaves have a prominent midrib and veins on the lower surface. The margins are wavy and widely toothed.. Masses of white or light lavender flowers with prominent burgundy veins are borne from spring to mid-summer.

NATURAL HABITAT & DISTRIBUTION
Forest understorey.
WILDLIFE & ECOLOGICAL BENEFITS
Asystasia bella is a larval host plant to the Blue Pansy butterfly.
WATER REQUIREMENTS
Water moderately throughout the year.
MAINTENANCE
Asystasia bella is low maintenance and will grow to a neat shrub up to 4 metres tall.
Prune back after flowering to encourage dense growth and a non-woody plant.
LANDSCAPING USES
A superb shrub for an informal hedge in a shady area. Ideal for small gardens.
It may also be grown in a large pot in a shady courtyard.
Ideal companion plants are Clivia miniata, Asparagus densiflorus and Plectranthus verticillatus.
GARDEN THEMES
Forest, Formal, Rockery, Tropical, Woodland
FLOWERS
White or lavender, bell-shaped flowers, each comprising a tube ending in 5 spreading lobes and streaked with purple veins.
FOLIAGE
The glossy dark-green leaves have a prominent midrib and veins on the lower surface.
FRUIT
The fruit is a green, club-shaped capsule that matures to brown then explodes into two to eject the seeds.
SEED
BUTTERFLY/MOTH HOST PLANT
Junonia oenone (Blue Pansy)
PESTS & DISEASES
Seldom attacked by pests and diseases.
CULTIVATION
Asystasia bella is easily propogated by semi-hardwood cuttings taken in autumn or spring or from seeds sown in spring. It performs best in heavily composted, well-drained granitic soil and needs regular watering in summer for the first year until well established. Feed with a slow-release 3:1:5 fertilizer every two months in summer. The plant responds well to a light pruning after flowering to encourage bushy new growth and to maintain a compact shape.

18 Responses

  1. Hi Nooriya

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    As your Mackaya bella are quite established they are likely to experience severe transplant shock.

    To minimise this, trim them down to knee height a week before digging them out. Plant in well-composted soil and water frequently.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  2. I would like to move my mature (3-4m) Mackaya bella bushes due to construction. How well do they transplant? Any advise?
    Thanks

  3. Hi Liesl

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    You can cut them back up to half their current size and now is a good time as they’ll still benefit from the remainder of the peak growing season.

    Feed them with compost and an organic fertiliser which will give them an extra boost which will help improve the flowering this season. Also remember that as this is a forest species which will thrive when the soil is covered with a thick mulch of decaying leaf litter to mimic its natural growing conditions.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  4. We recently moved to a house that has a garden full of them. They are done flowering but the shrubs are really high 3-4m. How hard can these be pruned back and when (month?)? There are a few of them in a deep shade area that look very healthy and glossy but saw no flowers this season. Any tips?

  5. Hi Vanessa

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Mackaya bella generally survives frost conditions up to -5 degrees celcius but perhaps your garden is more susceptible to lower temperatures due to your location. Some gardens have rivers close by or the position is exposed to colder winds.

    Plants are sensitive to location, so you may have to change your positioning or choose another species.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  6. Hi,
    I have been trying to grow a few of these in my JHB garden but I find that they get ravaged by the cold each winter and by spring there is nothing left of the plant. They basically start growing from ground level again each year. I am confused as this site says they are frost hardy? But that is not my experience at all.

  7. Hi Anthon

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The life expectancy of plants depends to a large extent on the growing conditions.

    We have seen some garden specimens at are at least 20 years old and they are still thriving.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  8. Hi Lesley

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It is always tricky planting under an established tree.

    Without trying to dissuade your plant selection, realise that Asystasia bella may not thrive under your Cedrus deodara (deodar tree) for the following reasons:-

    1. Fallen needles from Cedrus deodara (deodar tree) tend to make the soil very acidic which makes it difficult to grow most plants around them.
    2. There may be competition with the tree for nutrients and water.

    Although not indigenous, you may also wish to consider hydrangeas, camellias or azaleas under your tree as these definitely thrive in acidic conditions.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  9. Hi Gillian

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Shrivelled leaves can have a number of causes. Without knowing any details about your watering and feeding regime, I’ll have to give you general pointers to consider:

    – Watering should rather be for a long duration, to ensure that the water penetrates deeper into the ground to reach the roots.
    – Avoid over-watering which can also stress the plant and cause withered leaves. An established Mackaya can survive with minimal watering, but this will depend on your soil and garden’s micro-climate.
    – Could your water be contaminated?
    – Mackaya thrives in a forest environment, so ensure that your planting area is rich in compost and leaf litter.
    – As with most plants, feeding should only take place when there is active growth and flower production. Over-feeding can cause the leaves to wither.
    – Use an organic fertiliser
    – Could there have been an accidental chemical spillage near your plant?
    – Is there any insect activity on the plant?
    – What is the age of the plant? It could perhaps be reaching the end of its life.

    I hope this helps.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  10. My mackaya bella is not looking very healthy with shrivelled and withered leaves despite feeding and watering. What can be causing this? I live in the Cape, South Africa.

  11. Hi Francois

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It depends on where you’re looking and what size you require.
    A 4l plant will cost around R50 and a 40l plant will be roughly R500.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  12. Hi Lynne

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Try Hill House Nursery in Devon. If they can’t assist, contact the RHS for details of your nearest nursery specialising in exotic species.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  13. Please can you let me know if is possible to buy this plant ( Mackaya Bella) in the uk ?
    If so where.

    Thank you

  14. Hi Elma

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.
    Mackaya bella is a forest species that prefers full shade. However, I’ve seen some planted in full sun and they’ve adapted.

    If you don’t have the shade, consider planting it on the south east side of your home which may only receive morning sun in summer.

    Flourish!
    Glenice

  15. Thank you for the relevant info. Would be ideal during winter but the summer sun would be too harsh unfortunately

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