Kirstenbosch enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with a long, hot, dry summer (November-March) and a short, cool, rainy winter (June-August). Click on the seasonal image to find out which plants you can expect to see in flower at Kirstenbosch, and what the weather, rainfall and temperature is likely to be in that season. For an overview of the rainfall and average temperatures recorded at Kirstenbosch throughout the year, and the best time to visit, read on…
The best time to visit Kirstenbosch
There are always flowers and interesting plants to be seen at Kirstenbosch and every season has its charm, however, to see the fynbos at its best and the maximum number of plants in flower, the best time to visit is towards the end of winter, in spring or in early summer (August-November).
Kirstenbosch and the suburb of Newlands are in the lee of the tallest point of Table Mountain, and as a result share the highest rainfall on the Cape Peninsula. Kirstenbosch receives on average 1 310 mm of rain in a year. Just over half of this rain falls during the winter months, each of which receives, on average, 14 days of rain. The autumn and spring months (April-May and Sept-Oct. respectively) receive about 10 days of rain each, while each summer month receives only 4 or 5 days of rain.
Average Monthly Rainfall and Rainy Days
|Early Summer||November||147.9 mm||7 days|
|Late Summer||March||28.6 mm||5 days|
The hottest month is February, when the average daily temperature is 25 ºC, but it can reach up to 35 ºC. The coolest month is July when the average daily temperature is 17 ºC and the coldest nights dip down to 7 ºC. Autumn and spring average 18-22 ºC.
Average Monthly Temperature
|Early Summer||November||12.7 °C||21.5 °C|
|Late Summer||March||14.6 °C||24.1 °C|
Autumn falls in the months of April and May. The weather is cool and changeable, and the first winter storms will bring welcome rain to the Cape during autumn.
See a selection of images of Autumn flowering plants at Kirstenbosch
Blue, purple, pink and white spurflowers (Plectranthus spp.) dominate the Garden at this time of the year. There are many species and cultivars of these easy-to-grow, shade-loving, herbaceous groundcovers.
Early autumn is the time to see the different species of Nerine in flower, from the dainty pink species to the stunning, gold-dusted red nerine, also known as the Guernsey lily, (Nerine sarniensis). These sought-after bulbs can be seen in the Kay Bergh Bulb House in the Botanical Society Conservatory in April. Autumn is also a good time to spot the diminutive stone plants, like Argyroderma delaetii, in flower in the Conservatory.
The fynbos has sprung to life again, having survived the heat and drought of summer. Many species, including a wide variety of proteas are flowering.
Winter falls in the months of June, July and August, when the Cape is confronted with frequent storms and receives lots of rain. Nevertheless, Cape winters also enjoy many days of clear blue skies and sunshine. By August, spring is in the air and many of the Namaqualand daisies are already flowering.
See a selection of images of Winter flowering plants at Kirstenbosch.
Fynbos is at its best during winter, many species are in flower and the Fynbos Walk is alive with colour and birds. You will see many proteas or sugarbushes (Protea species), pincushions (Leucospermum species), conebushes (Leucadendron species) and some of the rarer Protea Family shrubs, like the spiderheads (Serruria species). You will also see Buchus flowering, (pronounced boo-gh-oo), fynbos shrubs with strongly aromatic foliage that belong in the Citrus Family (Rutaceae).
You can’t miss the famous crane flower, also known as the bird of paradise, (Strelitzia reginae) which flowers throughout the winter, starting in May and ending around October. You will also see our specal yellow cultivar, ‘Mandela’s Gold’ named after former president Nelson Mandela.
A wide variety of aloes are in flower in the Mathews Rockery, as well as in the Conservatory, the Vygie Rockery, the Useful Plants Garden, and the Garden of Extinction.
Spring is the most colourful time of year at Kirstenbosch. It falls in the months of September and October, although spring has an early start in the Cape and many species start flowering in August. The weather, although changeable with rain still likely, is mostly warm and sunny. The Namaqualand daisies and vygies carpet large areas of the Garden, and the spring bulbs and many fynbos plants are in flower at this time of the year.
See a selection of Spring flowering plants at Kirstenbosch
Namaqualand daisies in all colours of the rainbow, dance in the breeze and follow the sun with open faces. You will see Ursinia (yellow, orange), Dimorphotheca (white, orange), Felicia (blue), Arctotis (orange, cream, red, bronze), Senecio (purple, white) and Gazania (yellow, orange). Look closer to see many other annuals like the bokbaaivygies (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis) and the blue flax (Heliophila coronopifolia) in amongst the daisies.
Vygies (pronounced fay-gh-ease) transform into a kaleidoscope of iridescent colour: brilliant pinks, purple, magenta, yellow and white – just about every colour but blue. You can’t miss the bright oranges and yellows of Lampranthus aureus, yellows and reds of Drosanthemum speciosum or the purples and pinks of Lampranthus roseus.
Many bulbs flower in the spring. You are sure to see the cool elegant arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and tall spikes of watsonias in the garden. To see the amazing variety and the beautiful shapes and colours of the Cape bulbs, including Moraea, Babiana, Sparaxis and Lachenalia, visit the Kay Bergh Bulb House in the Botanical Society Conservatory, where they are on display, safe from the ever hungry porcupines.
Many fynbos plants are in flower, and this is an excellent time to see the pincushions (Leucospermum spp.) which enliven the Protea Garden with bright oranges, yellows, peach and red, some keeping going into early summer. You will also see many conebushes, (Leucadendron spp.), and proteas (Protea spp.) and a wide variety of other fynbos shrubs in flower.
November marks the beginning of summer. The weather is now becoming hot and dry with fewer and fewer rainy days. The spring annuals have finished flowering and the beds are being replanted with the summer annuals.
See a selection of Early summer flowering plants at Kirstenbosch
The most striking plants now are the tall, yellow spikes of Wachendorfia thyrsiflora in the main garden, and a lovely flowering shrub to look out for in the Dell and the Camphor Avenue is the forest bell bush (Mackaya bella).
Some fynbos plants are still flowering, including many pincushions (Leucospermum spp.) and heaths (Erica spp.). Look out for the beautiful nodding heads of the unusual mountain dahlia, (Liparia splendens), a member of the Legume Family (Fabaceae) that at first glance may be mistaken for kind of protea.
Hard to miss in November-December are the magnificent Cape chestnuts (Calodendrum capense), their canopies turn pink, covered in large panicles of exquisite, delicate blooms. Another flowering tree to look out for is the weeping boer-bean (Schotia brachypetala), with its coppery new growth and deep red, nectar-filled flowers that attract many birds.
A feature of the garden from late winter into summer are the pelargoniums, also known by many as geraniums, (Pelargonium spp.) They flower profusely in shades of red, purple, pink and white and many have beautiful, fragrant foliage. Gardeners are familiar with the modern zonal, regal and ivy-leaved hybrids in garden centres. At Kirstenbosch you can see the parents of these hybrids, and many other beautiful and unusual species.
The Cape summer is characterised by long, hot, sunny days and virtually no rain. Plants from the summer rainfall areas of South Africa reach their full flowering splendour in mid to late summer.
See a selection of Midsummer flowering plants at Kirstenbosch
Agapanthus steal the show, in shades of blue and white, short and tall, they are everywhere. The evergreen species flower in early-to mid summer, and the deciduous species, with their unusual pendulous flowers, flower from mid-until late summer.
During these hot, dry months, the cool, shady and well-watered areas of Kirstenbosch, such as the Camphor Avenue and the Dell, are most inviting. Here under the trees during February you will find the spectacular bright orange fireball lily, (Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katharinae) and the dainty streptocarpus, also known as wild gloxinia or Cape primrose (Streptocarpus species), with their trumpet flowers in shades of violet, blue, lilac and white.
Visitors that enter the Garden via the Centre for Home Gardening during January are greeted by the magnificent purple canopy of the huge umzimbeet (Millettia grandis). Look closely and you will see that the flowers are large upright inflorescences at the tips of the branches, made up of many ‘pea’ flowers.
March marks the end of the summer. The days are still warm and sunny but by now are noticeably shorter and the weather is becoming cooler with the promise of rain to come.
See a selection of images of Late Summer flowering plants at Kirstenbosch
When you see the fragrant, pink trumpets of the March lily (Amaryllis belladonna), you know that autumn is just around the corner. At this time of the year you will also see wild Tibouchina (Dissotis princeps) and the sagebushes (Syncolostemon spp.) on the Main Lawn and around the Dell and the Koppie. You won’t miss the bright orange or white pom-pons of the lion’s ear, also known as wild dagga, (Leonotis leonurus), which flowers throughout the summer into autumn, and is at its best in late summer.
This time of year is also the peak flowering season for the pride of de Kaap, (Bauhinia galpinii), with its vibrant orange flowers and beautiful rounded leaves. There are a few lovely specimens to be seen in the Garden, but the most magnificent bushes are those tumbling over the walls beside the Bell Tower Gate at the main entrance to Kirstenbosch. Up in the Erica Garden you will see the deep blue flowers of Nivenia corymbosa, an unusual woody irid from the fynbos.