Plant Collector: Tigridia pavonia

Tigridia pavonia - missing the scarlet red one we have which had no flowers open on the day

Tigridia pavonia – missing the scarlet red one we have which had no flowers open on the day

There is nothing rare, choice or difficult about these bulbs which can border on garden weeds, they are so easy. But in the right situation, they are a delight in the summer melee. Tigridias are from southern Mexico but probably on the road to naturalising anywhere hospitable. They set prodigious amounts of seed and can reach flowering size from seed in two years. Their common name is jockey caps and they belong to Iridaceae (iris) family. The flowers are relatively large – up to 15cm across – with 3 large outer petals and 3 inner small ones, but short-lived. Each bloom only lasts one day, opening in the morning and wilting away to oblivion by evening. However, each stem produces multiple blooms in succession. The pleated leaves are attractive in themselves and both flower and foliage sit around 60cm high. In case you are worried about weed potential, be reassured that they are easy to pull out if they pop up in the wrong place and you can control them by removing seed pods.

Tigridias want full sun and good drainage but also some summer rain when in growth. We find they combine well with larger growing summer plants like dahlias and lychnis in less formal areas of the garden.

Mark’s very late Uncle Les (he who bred such camellia classics as Jury’s Yellow, Anticipation and Debbie) spent some time trying to breed the freckles out of tigridias which always seemed a rather odd track to take, though the freckle-less blooms perhaps have a finer charm of some sort.

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