The bulb wonderland of southern Africa gives us this mid to late spring flowering treasure from Natal. Scadoxus puniceus is not often seen in the country and rarely offered for sale but well worth having if you find it. The bulbs are large fist-sized affairs and slow to increase, but if you find somebody with a plant, it sets seed and as long as you are working with fresh seed, it germinates readily.
Usually the flower stem appears first in late winter, followed soon after by the lush pale lettuce green foliage. The relatively large flowers consist of a mass of orange stamens surrounded by a maroon outer petal casing, which is not a common colour combination in any plant. It is happy in woodland or semi shade conditions which never get hot and dry in summer or cold and wet in winter. The former will force it into early dormancy whereas the latter will rot out the bulb.
It is the same family as Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae which is far more readily available. Katherinae has large spherical flower heads in red which look like a mass of spidery stamens and runs about three months behind puniceus. It is just coming into growth now and will flower in mid to late summer making a real feature in the summer garden.