Eucomis (was Mole deterrent)
Mon, 19 Dec 2005 10:57:33 PST
I'm a great fan of eucomis, of which I have quite a number in the open
garden, even though we go down to -20F in winter (zone 5).  The persistent
snow cover is undoubtedly the explanation for winter hardiness; beyond
that, summer growing conditions here are accomodating to these plants,
which are very much summer (not spring) growers.

The purple-leaved forms Jane mentions are wonderful things.  Years ago, I
grew out a batch of seedlings of E. autumnalis  -300 or so - out of which I
selected two very good deep-purple-leaved forms.  Many more were pigmented
to one extent or another, and all had a most attractive growth form, which
is to say the foliage tends to stay fairly low and the inflorescence is
large, full, and starts blooming low to the ground.  All the dusky and
dark-leaved plants have pink flowers rather than the typical greenish white
(which is also attractive).  In our spring 2006 catalog we'll be listing
both the vegetatively produced dark-purple-leaved form (Eucomis autumnalis
'Just About Midnight')and the dusky-leaved seedlings that come out of our
continuing attempts to get more really dark leaved forms from seed.

There seems to be a lot of variation within species, particularly in E.
autumnalis, which can range from being a very short, squat plant with a
plump inflorescence to being a big, rangy, messy thing with a small
inflorescence on a long pedicel-so it's a good idea to get bulbs that are
either vegetatively produced or are from a known seed strain.  I've dug up
and discarded my share of excellent growers that weren't worth growing.

E. bicolor is also somewhat variable - it pays to find plants that are
heavily spotted with purple, on leaves and stems.  Not to sound overly
commercial, but we sell those too.  I've been working with these things for
roughly ten years now, and haven't tired of them yet.

One other thing that has interested me: years ago, I bought Eucomis 'Peace
Candles' from a South African grower, and was told it was an E. autumnalis.
I planted a bunch in the garden, where they've done fine, producing almost
3-ft tall cylindrical inflorescences (that's 3 ft including the pedicel,
but the inflorescence is also long) crowded with lovely white flowers with
purple stamens.  However, the ovaries are also purple, and the "topknot" is
small, and I am now quite sure it's really E. comosa.  But it's as hardy
here as the other higher-altitude eucomis.  Does anyone else have
experience with this one?  It's quite wonderful - nicely fragrant, too,
whereas the flowers of E. bicolor and E. montana smell like dead mice.

Eucomis is definitely one of my favorite genera - 


Ellen Hornig
Seneca Hill Perennials
Oswego NY USA
USDA zone 5

Original Message:
From: Jane McGary
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 09:10:17 -0800
Subject: [pbs] Eucomis (was "Mole" deterrent)

Eucomis may deter what they call "moles" in South Africa (which Rogan 
identifies as "mole-rats", apparently a rodent rather than an insectivore), 
but they have no similar effect on actual moles or on voles (rodents), both 
of which frequent my Eucomis planting area.

That said, it's still a great genus to grow, in part because most (all?) of 
the species are winter-dormant and therefore can survive fairly cold 
winters in North America, especially if you plant them deep and mulch over 
them. However, as Rogan implied, the foliage is large and floppy, so 
Eucomis need their own space. An added advantage of the genus is that it 
seems to be very easy to grow from seed.

The purple-foliage forms that are becoming popular seem to need full sun to 
maintain their best color, at least here in the cool Pacific Northwest.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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