What everyone is talking about: the Spekboom Challenge

It’s a good thing I’m better at looking after children than plants because no matter how carefully I follow the watering and care instructions, green things tend to die on my watch. The only thing that seems to have escaped my not-so-green thumb is my spekboom plant in its beautiful glass container, and which I plan to move to my garden soon (apparently it’s really easy to replant).

So, what is the spekboom, why is everyone talking about it, and why does it have its own and growing hashtag, #SpekboomChallenge?

Spekboom: the “miracle” plant

Spekboom helps to fight air pollution as it can capture four to 10 tons of carbon per hectare. It’s basically a carbon sponge, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, and turning it into plant matter. Excess carbon is responsible for global warming, which causes the likes of floods, heatwaves and droughts.

Spekboom is a drought-resistant plant that can survive on just 250mm to 350mm a year, so it’s low maintenance. It’s a pretty-looking shrub with small round green leaves and red stems. Star-shaped pink flowers attract insects and birds to the garden from late winter until spring. It’s adaptable to all conditions and is suitable for all types of gardens and seasons.

How to get started

Get some spekboom from a nursery, or ask for some from someone you know who is growing it, as it’s easy to propagate. Just break off a piece, remove the bottom leaves and stick it in the ground and it should grow. You can add fertiliser and compost if you’d like to. Water your spekboom every few days for the first month, and thereafter around once a month.

If you don’t have a garden, you can plant your spekboom in a planter. Keep them in a sunny area, but give them a bit of shade for a few hours every day in the first week or two to establish the roots. Water every two to three days, but after a month you can water every month.

“The Spekboom Challenge is a social media drive to motivate all South Africans to plant at least 10 spekbome each in 2020.”

How to get the kids involved

Depending on their age, you can get your child involved with the planting and the watering every few days. Mark the watering times on a chart for them, and you can buy a little watering can to make it even more fun. Let them chart the growth, and even take pictures of the progression. Older kids can plant spekboom branches in little pots – old glass jars or tins make for great containers and can be decorated – and sell them at school, or give them out as party favours.

The Spekboom Challenge

The Spekboom Challenge is a social media drive to motivate all South Africans to plant at least 10 spekbome each in 2020. Plant your spekboom, and post a picture to social media if you’d like, using the hashtag #spekboomchallenge

Other spekboom facts

  • It’s also called elephant bush – elephants love eating it.
  • Spekboom is an Afrikaans word and directly translates to “bacon tree”.
  • It can be eaten – add it to salads, or even to your G&T.
  • Medicinally, it’s used to treat exhaustion and dehydration when you suck a leaf; as a relief for blisters when the leaves are crushed; and as an antiseptic when the leaves are juiced.