Lachenalia (Aloides-Hybrids) ‘Nelsonii’: Cape Cowslip

The drawback of some bulbous plants is their size, which is often too large for the modern home. Even though we can frequently provide them with the cool overwintering they require, lack of space makes their cultivation unfeasible. This is where the small genera come into their own.

Lachenalia, comprising mostly smaller forms, is one such genus. It embraces about 50 species native to Cape Province. Some flower in late summer and autumn (for example Lachenalia rubida and L. uni-color), most, however, are spring-flowering. The majority have only two or less leaves, about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) long, sometimes spotted brown or reddish brown. The flowers are tubular and borne in spike- or raceme-like clusters on upright stems. The segments are often arranged in two layers, the ones on the inside often longer and extending beyond the outer segments.

Most widely cultivated is the group of hybrids derived from L. aloides (syn. L. tricolor), which are classified under the name L. (Aloides-Hybrids). The ‘Nelsonii’ is one of the loveliest and most popular. Very similar, with slightly paler flowers, is ‘Luteola’. ‘Quadricolor’ is magnificent, with flowers which are red at the base, yellow green in the middle and purplish green at the tip of the petals. Also not to be bypassed, particularly by those who collect botanical species, is L. glaucina, with simple green leaves and loose racemes of pale blue, pendant flowers that are very fragrant.

Spring-flowering species should be allowed to die down after flowering and the bulbs left to ripen in the sun. In autumn they should be repotted in a fresh mixture of pine leaf mould, peat and sand and watering should be resumed. If these ingredients cannot be obtained, use John Innes potting compost No. 1. In winter they should be kept in a cool, well-lit spot and watered regularly but not much. Propagation is by the offsets of the bulb which are very plentiful.

Autumn-flowering species have a dormant period in winter.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lachenalia (Aloides-Hybrids) ‘Nelsonii’: Cape Cowslip

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