The beautiful Cape Cowslips – South African in origin as the name implies -are splendid plants for the cool greenhouse, flowering normally from February until May. Many species and hybrids are grown in a good range of colours. Two popular kinds are Lachenalia abides nelsonii, with spikes of golden-yellow, and L. bulbifera (or L. pendula as it is often listed in catalogues) which includes coral-red, yellow, purple and green in its floral colours. These and many other lachenalias have spotted leaves as an added attraction.
The Growth Cycle
The bulbs should be potted in August or September and I find it best to plant five to seven in a 5-in. pot. Use John Innes No. 1 Potting Compost and cover the bulbs to a depth of 1 in. They must be kept cool in the early stages and the best place of all for them is a shaded cold frame. Water must be given very sparingly until the leaves start to develop. When the leaves begin to appear the pots should be brought at once into a cool greenhouse with the temperature being best at around 7 to 10°C. (45 to 50°F.). High temperatures in particular are resented by lachenalias. The amount of water supplied must now be stepped up with still more being provided as the plants come into flower. With flowering completed, progressively reduce the water supply and allow the plants to die down and then spend the summer ripening off in a sunny position. Repeat the growth cycle in August by repotting in fresh compost.
Increase can be by offsets removed from the parent bulbs when repotting or by seed sown in the normal way in a temperature of 16 to 18°C. (60 to 65°F.).