A plant list for Rwanda


Planned. Planted. Established. Then neglected,
Till at last the loiterer by the gate will wonder
At the old, old cottage, the old wooden cottage,
And say ‘One might build here, the view is glorious;
This must have been a pretty garden once.’

Mary Ursula Bethell, from “Time

From September 2011 to December 2014, we lived in Kigali, Rwanda, where we had a large garden.

The list below includes many of the plants from this garden. I compiled it because I thought it would be useful for other expat gardeners from cold climates who now live in frost-free countries and need to identify unfamiliar annuals, perennials, and shrubs.

(Rwanda has remarkably wonderful weather, with daytime temperatures ranging from the 60s°F to mid 80s°F. There are two rainy seasons a year: February to May and September to December.)

The color headings below are for flower colors, unless a plant’s primary appeal is foliage — then it is placed under the primary color of the leaves.

The “More here” links go to my original posts on the plants or to other websites or blogs.  Click for photos or additional information about size, form, or care.



Heliconia rostrata or lobster claws.  Large dangling blooms, 6′-8′.  More here.

Epidendrum ibaguense.  Orchid.  More here.

Russelia equisetiformis.  More here.

Euphorbia Milii or crown of thorns.  Native to Madagascar.  More here.


Gerbera, probably G. jamesonii or Transvall daisy.  Native to South Africa.  More here.


Justicia brandegeeana or shrimp plant.  Could be considered a small, loose shrub, 2′ – 4′, light brick with yellow/green and white tips, nearly year-round bloom.  More here.


Gerbera, probably G. jamesonii or Transvall daisy.  Native to South Africa.  More here.

Kniphofia uvaria or red-hot pokers.  More here.


Rudbeckia laciniata or cutleaf coneflower — a double variety, possibly ‘Goldquelle,’ ‘Hortensia,’ or ‘Goldenglow.’  Native to eastern North America.  Nice large leaves, 3′-5′ tall.  More here.

Solidago or goldenrod, species unknown. Probably native to North American (a few Solidago species are native to South American and Eurasia).  More here and here.

Russelia equisetiformis lutea. Light yellow or cream.  More here.

Euphorbia Milii or crown of thorns.  Native to Madagascar.  Pale yellow blooms.  More here.

Oenothera missouriensis or Missouri primrose.  Annual, U.S. native.


Evolvulus ‘Blue Sapphire.’  Groundcover, 6″ – 12″.  More here and here.

Aster oolentangiensis or sky blue aster. U.S. native.


Datura stramonium or Jimson weed or Jamestown weed.  Native to North American.  More here.

Salvia leucantha or Mexican sage.  More here.



Hymenocallis littoralis or beach spiderlilies.  Bulb, native to west coast of Florida, southern Mexico, and Central America.  More here.


Callisia repens.  Low, succulent groundcover.  Underside of leaves are purplish, no flowers.  More here.

Pilea sp. or aluminum plant, artillery plant, angelwing, or friendship plant.  More here.

Pachypodium lamerei or Madagascar palm.  Native to Madagascar.  A stem succulent, it has not bloomed in our garden.  More here.

Cycas revoluta or sago palm.  Native to southern Japan.  More here and here.

Graptopetalum.  More here.

Kalanchoe (possibly mother of millions, K. daigremontiana), native to Madagascar.  More here.



Mussaenda erythrophylla or Ashanti blood or red flag blood or tropical dogwood.  Native to West Africa.  Woody vine to 30′, always in bloom, often confused with poinsettia.  More here.

Chenille plant.  More here.


Brugmansia or angel’s trumpet or datura.  Native to tropical South America.  Fragrant in evening, 6′ – 20′.  More here.

Clerodendron thomsoniae var. delectum or beauty bush.  Native to tropical West Africa, Cameroon to Senegal.  Vine, blooms are pink and light red.  More here and here.

Abutilon x hybridum or Chinese lantern bush or flowering maple.  Native to So. America.  Blooms in pale pink.  More here.

Abutilon x hybridum or Chinese lantern bush or flowering maple.  Native to So. America.  Blooms in pale peach.  More here.



Mussaenda frondosa.  Native to Indo-China and Malaysia.  Orange and white bracts, 3′ – 10′.  More here.

Lantana camera or Spanish flag.


Abutilon x hybridum or Chinese lantern bush or flowering maple.  Native to So. America.   More here.


Eranthemum nervosum (aka E. pulchellum) or blue sage or blue eranthemum.  Native to India.  Likes light shade, 4′ – 6′.  More here.


Brunfelsia latifolia (aka B. australis) or yesterday, today, tomorrow shrub.  Native to South America.  Very fragrant at night, full to part sun, blooms on old wood.  More here.



Clerodendron thomsoniae or bleeding glory-bower or bleeding heart vine.  Native to tropical West Africa, Cameroon to Senegal.  Vine, white blooms are tipped in red, mine have variegated leaves with chartreuse.  More here.

Abutilon x hybridum or Chinese lantern bush or flowering maple.  Native to So. America.   More here.


Ficus pumila or creeping fig.  Native to east Asia.  Suckering vine.  More here.




Apk15.  Celosia argentea or Lagos spinach.  About 5′, dark pink with green and burgundy leaves, which are edible.  More here.




Oenothera missouriensis or Missouri primrose.  An American native.





Tanacetum parthenium or pyrethrum daisy or feverfew.  Clusters of small, daisy-shaped flowers.  More here.



Punica granatum or pomegranate.  Small fruit tree native to modern-day Iran and Iraq.  More here.

Ravenalas madagascariensis or traveler’s palm.  Native to Madagascar.  Sole member to its genus.  More here and here.

Ficus benjamina or weeping fig.  Can be clipped when small.  I have both the solid green and the pale cream variegated leaf varieties.  More here and here.

Acacia tree.  More here.

11 thoughts on “A plant list for Rwanda

  1. Hello,
    We have two native plants from Rwanda in our home in Brussels. They are planted indoors in large pots. One of these is doing quite well, but the other is in a sad state and I want to rescue it before it dies. If I sent you a photo of the plants, would you be able to offer some advice on care?!

      1. Hi Cindy, I sent you an email with two photos attached so that you can see what type of plant it is, and what state it’s in!

    1. I’m sorry for my delay in answering. The only information I have about it comes from the “Illustrated Field Guide to the Plants of Nyungwe National Park Rwanda” by Fischer and Killmann (which is an essential book for Rwanda; you can find it in Kigali bookstores and sometimes at Nyungwe Park).

      “Tree up to 10-35 m. tall. Leaves alternate, with petioles up to 8 cm. long. . . . Inflorescences terminal, all with numerous male and few female flowers. Flowers greenish-yellow, densely silvery lepidote. Fruite 3 cm. in diameter. Habitat and distribution: Montane rainforest, 2000 m. Western part of Nyungwe. East Africa south to Mozambique.”

  2. Hi Cindy, have you ever tried growing sweet pea flowers in Rwanda? I’d love to know if they would grow there ~ thanks a lot

    1. Hi Lynn, sorry for the late reply; I’ve been traveling and also my Mac died (maybe). I never tried sweet peas — I’m not sure there’s a chilly-enough season to get them started (in Kigali anyway). On the other hand, it’s never terribly hot, either, so it’s worth a shot. I’ve forgotten the dates for the coolest period, but you could try it at the start of one of the rainy seasons.

    1. There are no Rhododendrons in my copy of The Illustrated Guide to the Plants of Nyungwe National Park. I can’t remember seeing any in Kigali. The fairly mild weather in Kigali would probably suit them, but the lack of consistent rainfall (the dry seasons) would not. But I imagine they could grow well in the damper, higher west. But the soil would need to be tested to see if it is acid enough. I guess you could grow them in pots and control for all these factors — as long as they are out of direct sun.

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