Rooibos, Bush tea, red tea, redbush tea, Rooibos tea
The highly popular shrub is native to the Western Cape of South Africa and well known for its health benefits. Reaching up to 2m, it has slightly reddish colored branches which gives it its common name. Leaves are green and needle-shaped, up to 6cm long growing alternately along branches. Flowers are yellow, around 3cm in diameter, with a fan-shaped lobe. Blooms appear from spring to early summer. Rooibos tea is made from the dried leaves, which can be drunk ‘green’, or fermented, which turns the leaves the traditional red-brown color. The tea tastes slightly earthy and is full of antioxidants. It is also free of caffeine and tannin, making it an excellent substitution for other caffeinated beverages. In its natural habitat, it is sometimes consumed by pregnant women to relieve heartburn and nausea. Requires very well-drained acid sandy soil and a warm sunny position. Tolerate temperatures down to around -4°C. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria.
Soak the seed 12 hours in warm water prior to sowing, covering the seed with about 10mm of soil. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained sandy soil as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. It will probably be wise to give the plants protection from the cold and from excessive rain for at least their first winter outdoors.