Roots Out the Drainage Holes

Tue, 24 Oct 2006 21:47:19 PDT
I grow some Lachenalia species also, and the collection both in sand beds,
and in pots on the bench. I have to say, and this is only my opinion and
experience, that I have not had a problem with roots entering the sand. In
fact, I pretty much abuse many of the species, and they seem none for the

Perhaps my pots are larger, but I grow most in 5" diameter clay pots. Also,
I do grow the African Beauty series that a few of the larger mail order
catalogs carry. In an obsessive moment a couple of years ago, I researched
on the Acta Horticulturae site, many research papers on the potential of
Lachenalia as a commercial plant. The study resulted in 39 interspecific
combinations between L. aloides, L. bulbifera, L. contaminata, L. mutabilis,
L. orchioides, L. roodiae (?), L. rubida and L. unicolor. Of course, to
those of you familiar with Lachenalia, these are generally the more showy
species. Ten of these croses were not successful, but eighteen had flowered
and we're being evaluated at that time.

Now I am starting to see pots of hybrid Lachenalia at some local stores. I
did see them at local Whole Food's, a large organic Supermarket in the US,
and I saw a greenhouse full at a local Boston Nursery last Easter. In fact,
since apparently no one had bought them, they we're past bloom and marked
down, so I bought all that I could find. I suspect, as with anything new, it
will take a while for these to catch on with the consumer.

I grow the Brent and Becky African Beauty's in the summer, since they are
available both in the spring, and in the fall. When planted in April, they
bloom in late may or June, and are inexpensive enough to use in a window box
or massed in the garden. I then harvest the bulbs, since they will freeze
here, and repot them in the greenhouse.

My greenhouse in Massachusetts  is a cold glass house, kept about ten
degress above freezing. I grow most of the Lachenalia from seed, and a few
from leaf cuttings, which has been very successful with some species,
especially the L.aloides types, and L. pustulata. I grow them in pumice,
large perlite, sand and sometimes pure Promix. Like my Nerine and Oxalis, I
keep most fairly wet, and some even in damp sand beds where the foliage can
become very fleshy.

Graham Duncan's book states that Lachenalia must have excellent drainage at
all times, and that although they grow in a wide range of soils in the wild,
they prefer sandy fast draining mixes, I must say that I have not had a
problem with even pure Promix. I add a little extra pumice in with it, but
nothin fussy at all. Surely, I will have something go wrong, and this streak
of luck may change, but I can say the even though my pots are in damp sand
or never dry out, the soil mix is fairly fast draining yet somewhat rich in
organic matter. I also keep some in pure sand, but can't see a difference
yet. They all receive full sun in the winter, which helps not only with the
flower color, but in keeping the foliage in character, especially the
reticulated leaf forms.

Out of the 29 species that I currently have, the lesser known L. aloides
varieties of aurea and vanzyliae lead my list of favorites in the
collection. L. aloides var. vanzyliae is dark green flowered, and I believe
it is even nicer than the other green flowered species, L. viridiflora since
it has darker spotted foliage, and is denser growing (although, it blooms in
late spring, and L viridiflora is a Christmas bloomer, which is very nice

The samller species, almost succulent or prostate species are a personal
favorite and these include L. pusilla, L. trichopylla and L. latifolia,
where the leaves hug the ground. I obtain the seed from the usual S.A.
Sources, including Silverhill, in the late summer, and sow deeply in square
3" pots. The seeds germinate quickly, and within four years, I have flowers.
Starting Lachenalia from seed if very easy, and thanks to Mark Mazur who
encouraged me five years ago to start, it has been a joyous success.
However, I have had little luck getting seed from my own plants,

As for repotting, I repot in July, while the bulbs are dormant, but that
said, I have also freely dumped a few blooming pots into a larger container
for a flowershow, or fro a photoshoot, or to bring into the house for a
display window that I have. After a few day, I bring them back into the
greenhouse, and either leave them in the pot if it has drainage, or I dig
them out, and repot, in bloom, into a new pot with soil and gravel to help
hold them stems in place. I still get seed set, and the bulbs are large by
the end of the winter, I can't say that I have lost any.

As a note, I take leaf cuttings during bloom, and taking the advice of some
other research articles on commercial propagation, I take only two leaf
sections, since the closer the leaf is to the stem, the more bulblets it
will form. I use sterilized agar in glass jars, with a growth agent in
On 10/24/06 9:40 PM, "Alberto Castillo" <> wrote:

Matt Mattus
Worcester, MA
Zone 5b USA

> Judy wrote:> So much to consider: large pots to mimic in-ground conditions,
> smaller > pots so soil doesn't sour - good thing the plants know who they are


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