Babiana angustifolia and where things can grow

Mary Sue Ittner
Fri, 29 Dec 2006 14:02:00 PST
Dear Joe,

I live in an area where many Babianas can be grown in the ground and 
neglected. They increase and bloom well for me, at least many species from 
the southwestern Cape do. I do less well with species needing alkaline soil 
or ones from very dry climates. My experience is that they do better with 
deeper pots or planted out. At least I didn't get reliable blooming with 
most of the ones I grew in pots, six inches deep. I have nine inch deep 
pots in my raised beds and they are quite happy in these. I think carefully 
moving them might be helpful, but a gallon pot might be o.k. for young 
plants. People on this list from colder climates have reported in the past 
difficulty growing Babianas. Light frost doesn't seem to be a problem, but 
I don't know at what stage the cold would get them. I rarely fertilize mine 
so don't know if they would grow better with light fertilizing. In our 
Mediterranean type climate they die down in late spring/ early summer and 
start growing again in the fall. They are corms and don't have perennial 
roots. Some species seem tolerant of a little summer water. But it should 
be fine to move them inside and dry them out in summer. I think they would 
also do better in the sun although I do have a few that bloom in areas that 
were once sunny and are no longer because the trees are bigger.

I don't think I've mentioned in awhile that there was an Ortho book , All 
About Bulbs, written in 1986 where they actually asked people who grew 
bulbs to give them advice instead of just copying from other bulbs. For 
each genus there was an adaptation map of the United States. Dark blue 
showed areas where bulbs could be naturalized with normal care. Light blue 
showed areas where the bulb could be grown outdoors with precautions (such 
as lifting and storing) and uncolored shows areas where the plant would be 
difficult to grow as a perennial. I suspect some of this was guesswork. 
Since some of the experts giving advice were from California I suspect the 
maps might have been more accurate for that state than for others. The map 
for Babiana is dark blue for coastal California and Oregon and light blue 
for the other parts of Oregon & California, Washington, and the southern 
part of the US (although the light blue extends farther north in the 
eastern states -- Maryland maybe-- than in the rest of the US.) So Houston 
is light blue. The book says Babiana can be grown in rock gardens (check), 
borders (check), containers (check, but I'd add deeper is better), alpine 
house, house, greenhouse. In my earlier bulb growing I loved this book. It 
didn't cost much, but was packed with useful information. In later reprints 
they reverted to a book that wasn't nearly as helpful as they had before 
this revision appeared. It's fun for me to drag it out every  now and then 
and see how it fits with my more recent experience. If you look at the maps 
in order to find genera that might have species that could be grown easily 
outside in most of the United States according to the maps which as I say 
were probably best guesses in some instances  you'd only  find Allium, 
Colchicum, Crocus, Hemerocallis, Lilium, Muscari, Narcissus. The more than 
100 other genera (sometimes covering only a couple species) discussed won't 
grow outside somewhere.

On this list people often report difficulties getting Amaryllis belladonna 
to flower. On the map in this book it is dark blue on the western half of 
California, the southern parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, 
and Georgia, Florida, and the coastal parts of North and South Carolina.

It would seem to me that with such a world wide list it would be an 
interesting exercise in hardiness for people to report what was perennial 
where they lived. I know Jim Shields tried to get a data base started for 
that years ago and only a few contributed so I'm not suggesting we do 
this,  just that it would be interesting as I suspect there would be surprises.

Mary Sue

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