Friday, May 16, 2008
Cape Cowslip, Soldier Boy, Leopard Lily.
Native of South Africa the genus Lachenalia comprises about 65 species but less than 10 are in cultivation and many of them are found in New Zealand and Australia where they grow very well. Lachenalia takes its name from the Eighteenth Century Swiss botanist, Werner de la Chenal.
Flowering in mid to late winter they are ready to herald the coming of spring. Colours vary from rich crimson to golden yellow with mixtures of colours in between. There are others with purple and delicate opalescent colours. The tubular flowers are crowded on a spike covering a fleshy stem. When planted and grown in a sunny or semi-shady position these are trouble-free bulbs. The only pests and diseases likely to be encountered are aphids and some fungal rots of the bulbs. Lachenalias like regular watering during winter and spring. They like to be dried off and stored or if grown in a dry place will survive from year to year.
Lachenalias grow well in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets. They need to be removed from these containers after flowering.
Three species common in New Zealand are Lachenalia pendula, L. tricolor and L. 'Pearsonii'.
L. pendula, Red Lachenalia, has deep crimson tubular flowers about 30 mm long, the inner tube is tipped with green and patches of mauve. They hang down along the length of the stem. Depending upon position they will flower from July to August. It is often used in bedding plant schemes and for cut flower production.
If really happy this plant will rapidly multiply producing heaps of new bulbs. It will also set viable seed and surprisingly leaf cuttings taken at flowering time will produce hundreds of small bulbs. There is one hybrid ‘Scarlet Bloom’ which is very vigorous, producing brighter and lighter coral-red flowers.
L ‘Pearsonii' is reputed to be a cross between L. tricolor and L. bulbifera but it appears to be an improved garden form of L. tricolor. It is a fine garden plant and is probably the best orange-yellow flowered form and is taller growing. The stems and leaves are mottled with purple-brown and it is an excellent cut flower.
L. tricolor [syn. L. aloides] is the best known and the most grown species. The flower colour varies in the wild resulting in a number of cultivars being named. Generally the tubular flowers are bright yellow tipped with green and the flower base is light red or reddish brown.