Flowering this week – Veltheimia

More likely to be veltheimia bracteata than capensis

More likely to be veltheimia bracteata than capensis

Indubitably veltheimia, but whether bracteata or capensis for the species is a bit open to debate. In fact we may even have hybrids between the two though that does not seem to be widely mentioned as an option. The flowers can look a little like a cross between a red hot poker (kniphofia) and a lachenalia on steroids. The pink form is more common and it is such a robust performer that I am inclined to think it is the easier bracteata. The yellow form with pink blush, called Rosalba, is much rarer and sought after. We had thought that this was the species capensis but it flowers at the wrong time and is such a reliable and strong performer that it is more likely to be predominantly bracteata. We also have a creamy yellow veltheimia which is touchy, difficult, fussy and doesn’t thrive at all which is a shame because the colour is purer than Rosalba.

Whatever, these big bulbs from South Africa (members of the Hyacinthaceae family) are a little tender in constitution for cold areas because they are in growth during winter. For many years, they have been perfectly happy in the narrow dry house border which gets all the morning and midday heat but only occasional rain. In recent times we have found that they can be successful grown in open woodland and indeed bracteata is referred to as a forest lily in South Africa. It is truly remarkable how many wildflowers of that country have come to form the majority of interesting bulb material grown in our gardens here. If you acquire veltheimia seed, it germinates easily but is best sown fresh

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  1. Pingback: Forest lily, a Victorian favorite, makes a comeback | csmonitor.com

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