Plant Collector: Rhodohypoxis

Pretty little rhodohypoxis - Ruth (white), Susan (pink), Albrighton (dark)

Pretty little rhodohypoxis – Ruth (white), Susan (pink), Albrighton (dark)

As the peak time for spring bulbs passes over, the South African rhodohypoxis come into their own. These are cracker little plants, forming a colourful carpet in well drained, sunny conditions. They are also great in wide, shallow bowls or underplanting shrubs in containers, as illustrated. Their fresh growth is triggered by autumn rains and they have a long flowering season from mid spring into early summer, as long as they don’t dry out. The foliage is short and grassy and hangs around unobtrusively until autumn when the plant goes dormant for a brief time.

There are a mass of different named rhodohypoxis, though most are just selections of R. baurii. Essentially they come in sugar pink, deep pink to red, white, bicoloured variations and occasional double forms. They are really easy to grow and multiply up most satisfyingly, with one proviso. The rhizomes are tiny and dark brown – sometimes not unlike the clawed ranunculus and other times just small, brown lumps. This means they are alarming anonymous when dormant and I am sure that is when most people forget where they are and either flay them round when weeding or plant something on top of them. If in doubt, plant them in a pot and sink the whole pot in the garden while you build up numbers.

With a rhodohypoxis expert staying here this week, we had a discussion on whether these bulbs are technically tubers, corms or rhizomes. The internet uses all terms interchangeably. The decision came down fair and square on rhizome status.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.