Gloriosa rothschildiana: Glory Lily
Gloriosa rothschildiana serves as decoration only in summer but itsare among the most beautiful in the plant realm. It is truly amazing that such a conspicuous and beautiful flower was not introduced into cultivation until the beginning of the 20th century. This may be explained by the fact it is native to Africa, which at that time was a continent little investigated by botanists and which, even today, still has unexplored reserves.
During the past few decades it was the Dutch who led the field in its cultivation which they fully mastered, discovering that, despite its exotic appearance, it is a plant that is not particularly demanding and can be grown by anyone who has at least a basic knowledge of horticulture.
Six species have been described to date, all native to tropical Africa and Asia. They are very much alike in the shape of the flowers, which in some species are coloured yellow or green, changing to red during flowering. The plants have cylindrical underground tubers from the top of which in spring grows a tall stem about 1.5 m (5 ft) high with long, glossy leaves terminated by tendrils with which the plant clings to the surrounding vegetation (in cultivation to a piece of twine or stick provided for the purpose). The number of flowers produced depends on the size of the, the general rule being one flower to each centimetre (half inch) of the tuber’s length. The flowers in the species are up to 15 cm (6 in) across and remain on the plant unchanged for up to 3 weeks. They are good for cutting and will last at least 10 days in a vase.
Cultivation is not difficult. The tubers, stored in dry sand in a warm spot for the winter, are planted in spring in John Innes potting compost No. 2 and watered. When they have started into growth they should be put in a warm spot in full sun and fed and watered liberally. Propagation is either by cutting up the tubers or by means of seeds, which develop into flower-bearing plants within 3 years.