Growing South African Bulbs: Learn About Bulbs From South Africa

Growing South African Bulbs: Learn About Bulbs From South Africa

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Gardeners can choose from a huge and diverse variety of colorful, striking South African bulb varieties. Some types bloom in late winter and early spring before going dormant in the summer. Other South African flower bulbs bloom during the summer and go dormant during the winter months.

Here are a few examples of beautiful, easy-to-grow bulbs from South Africa.

South African Flower Bulbs That Bloom in Winter

  • Lachenalia – Lachenalia produces spikes of tube shaped, hyacinth-like flowers above thick stems and strappy leaves in late winter and early spring.
  • Chasmanthe – This plant shows off fans of bright green leaves in autumn, followed by spiky orange red flowers in late winter or early spring.  Chasmanthe buds may be damaged by a late frost. Deadhead regularly, as Chasmanthe can be aggressive.
  • Sparaxis (harlequin flower, wandflower) – This plant consists of sword-shaped leaves and clusters of spiky, long lasting blooms. The funnel-shaped blossoms are vivid red, pink, purple, or orange with bright yellow centers. Deadhead if you want to limit self-seeding.
  • Babiana odorata (baboon flower) – Babiana produces spikes of fragrant royal blue flowers in mid to late spring. Baboon flower is native to sub-Saharan Africa.

South African Bulb Varieties That Bloom in Summer

  • Crocosmia – Crocosmia plants are similar to gladiolus but the spikes are taller and slimmer than glads and the blooms, in shades of red, orange, peach, or pink are smaller. Some varieties can reach heights of 6 feet (2 m.). Hummingbirds love the trumpet shaped flowers. 
  • Dierama (fairy wand or angel’s fishing rod) – Dierama produces lance shaped leaves in late spring or early summer, followed by slender, arching stems with dangling flowers in various shades of pink, purplish pink, magenta, or white.
  • Ixia – This plant is appreciated for the spikes of brightly colored flowers above grassy foliage. The blooms, which show up in late spring, remain closed on cloudy days. Also known as African corn lily, ixia blooms may be cream, red, yellow, pink, or orange usually with contrasting dark centers.
  • Watsonia (bugle lily) – This displays trumpet shaped blooms above sword shaped leaves in late summer. The exotic looking flowers of watsonia may be rosy red, pink, peach, lavender, orange, purple, or white depending on the variety.

Growing South African Bulbs

Most bulbs from South Africa love sunlight, although some (like African blood lily) benefit from afternoon shade, especially in hot climates. South African bulb varieties perform well in poor, well-drained soil, and may rot if conditions are too damp.

South African flower bulbs prefer dry soil and don’t need irrigation in the dormant season. Look for a sunny spot for growing. These sun loving plants tend to get long and lanky in too much shade.   

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