Flowering this week – Rhodophiala bifida

An ephemeral late summer delight - Rhodophiala bifida

An ephemeral late summer delight - Rhodophiala bifida

Markers, perhaps, of late summer or harbingers of autumn, rhodophiala are not well known in this country. They are bulbs again, but this time from South America (Uruguay and Chile, in fact) and closely related to hippeastrums. We used to know them as Hippeastrum bifida and they do resemble a smaller flowered hippeastrum. However, they are certainly not as touchy and particular as some of their exotic cousins and they are hardy. The stems shoot up and pop up heads of up to six trumpet flowers each before there is any hint of foliage. The colour is in shades of rich deep pink to maroon red with contrasting yellow anthers. When the leaves follow, they are modest and strappy.

Rhodophiala have to be increased by seed because the bulbs rarely if ever set offshoots (though there is apparently a Texan variant which sets multiple offshoots). They also have the characteristic of finding their own depth in the soil, pulling themselves down deeper to a level where they are happiest. Gloriosas do the same thing. In all honesty, I have to admit to admit they are a fleeting seasonal pleasure with each bulb only putting up a single flower spike which passes over reasonably quickly. But they don’t take up much room at all and they are a transient delight.