Sprekelia formosissima: Jacobean Lily

In 1593 the Spanish conquistadors brought to Europe a magnificent bulbous plant from the semi-deserts of Mexico and Guatemala. However, it was not described till 1764, when J. H. Sprekelsen, Hamburg’s town councillor, sent the bulb to Carl Linne, well-known Swedish botanist, who was the first to do so, though he assigned it wrongly to the genus Amaryllis.

This plant grows wild in semi-deserts, often on a gypsum substrate. In winter, which is relatively warm, there is practically no rain for several months and the bulbs dry up entirely. The plants flower with the arrival of the first rains in spring and during the period of relative dampness they also keep their leaves (usually four), which are linear and up to 40 cm (16 in) long. In the wild the bulbs are to be found in soil that compacts, becomes baked, and is seemingly without nutrients. This is the only thing that must not be copied in cultivation, otherwise its requirements are the same as in its native land.

In spring, in March or early April, the dry bulbs begin growth, even if they were stored in the dark. At this time they should be put in rich, well-drained loamy compost such as John Innes potting compost No 2. The bulb should be given extra drainage by adding stone rubble to the compost or by making a deep bed of stone or sand under the bulb and then topping it with compost.

Apart from growing sprekelias in pots indoors, they may also be put in flowerbeds in the garden. From the beginning of flowering until the end of August the plants should be watered adequately and also given frequent applications of feed. In autumn the bulbs should be lifted, cleaned, and stored in a warm spot until growth starts again in spring.

Propagation is by means of offsets of the bulb, though the plants may also be multiplied from seeds. These, however, rapidly lose their power of germination. It takes four years for the seedlings to grow into flower-bearing plants.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sprekelia formosissima: Jacobean Lily

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