Plant Collector: Cardiocrinum giganteum

The three metre flower spike of Cardiocrinum giganteum - worth the wait of up to 7 years to bloom

The three metre flower spike of Cardiocrinum giganteum – worth the wait of up to 7 years to bloom

If any bulb were to be the king or queen of wow, it is this giant Himalayan lily in full bloom. That is because these flowers are on a hefty stem that is around three metres high. Add to that the fact that it takes somewhere around seven years to flower and each bulb only flowers once. It then sets large amounts of seed and forms offsets around the base of the original bulb, each of which will take another five to seven years to flower. That life cycle must offer a metaphor for something. In the interim years, it just forms a seasonal clump of large, luscious, heart-shaped leaves reminiscent of an arum lily. This is a plant for cool, open, woodland conditions with soils which never dry out and are rich in humus. It does not perform in warm regions and won’t take much wind because of that great height in flower. We grow the plants in a cold, south facing border.

Cardiocrinums are very fragrant but the flowers are a fair way up in the air so to get the full impact of the scent, one possibly needs a veritable grove of them to walk through. The scent is stronger in the evening.

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

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