Pioneer Plants

In nature, pioneer plants are those plants that show up first after a fire or other disturbance, and create a safe and comfortable environment for other plants to start growing. Think of pioneers as a scab on any injury to the landscape. Pioneers are hardy plants that can establish in harsh environments, and once they have settled in they provide protection from sun, rain, and wind. They improve the soil health by shading the soil and preventing water loss. They also hold the soil in place preventing erosion and root disturbance, and add soil bacteria and fungi to the site that help provide extra nutrients, vitamins, minerals and water to the plants.

Pioneers create an ideal nursery environment for more sensitive species. Introducing pioneers to a site is the first step in ecosystem recovery. They are ideal for those areas in your garden where other plants struggle to grow and can pave the way for future plantings of more sensitive plants. It is also advisable to use some pioneer plants on new sites after building is completed.

Here are some indigenous beauties that are ideal for breaking new ground:

  • Carpobrotus edulis or Sour Fig – A no-nonsense succulent that will grow fast and cover soil to prevent erosion and at the same time release much needed nutrients in the soil.
  • Plectranthus neochlis or Lobster Spur Flower – A hardy groundcover with delicate blue spur shaped flowers. It grows both in sun and shade and will deter pests and even dogs and cats.
  • Arctotis stoechadifolia or Arctotis daisy – Arctotis species and hybrids are very popular garden plants across the world as they are easy to grow and very floriferous, with large flowers in a range of colours.
  • Gazania rigens or clumping Gazania – It is a spreading, low-growing, half-hardy perennial, growing to 50 cm tall and wide, with blue-grey (or green) foliage and brilliant yellow, daisy-like composite flower heads throughout the summer.
  • Pelargonium capitatum or Rose Scented Geranium – Pink-flowered low-growing (30 cm) shrub with highly-frilly, sweet-scented leaves. It grows well in semi-shade and is often found in disturbed areas and is therefore a useful pioneer plant. It flowers from September to October.

Join us this Friday 14 January for our FREE online workshop on ‘Breaking New Ground – Pioneer Plants’, with Garden Guru Sue Both.

Please use the following login details to join us at 11am sharp over Zoom:

Meeting ID: 870 4398 6742

Passcode: 877760

or use the following direct link:

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to contact your friendly Garden Guru – Sue Both at: