Ken K
Wed, 11 Dec 2002 13:31:55 PST
It probably has a lot to do with my climate, but Veltheimia bracteata
has always done very well for me. It was one of my very first South
African bulbs, and remains a favorite. I read about it in the Sunset
Western Garden book and a couple of specialty bulb books (the HP Bulb
book), however they were not to be found locally. I finally tracked
one down at Catalog of Unusual Succulents, a mail order cactus &
succulent nursery. A short while later, one turned up at Berkeley
Horticultural Nursery and I grabbed that one also. The BHN plant had a
much nicer plant habit, and a richer pink color to the flower. Both
set a few seeds from their own pollen, which ripened during the early
summer and sprouted readily in the fall. My plantings were severely
damaged during the 1990-1991 freeze because they were all in
containers, so I spent a few years building my stock back up again.

I have been growing the yellow selection of bracteata for two seasons
now, however it was small (only 15 mm in diameter) when I received it 
- directly from South Africa - and has not bloomed yet. It looks like
it should be large enough next year. By all rights it should have
bloomed by now, but perhaps the cross-hemisphere jolt set it back.

While I have not been able to match Cathy's 18 month seed-to-bloom
time, I think I recall some of my more vigorous seedlings blooming in
their second or third season. Mine were all grown outdoors, and I tend
to leave them crammed in their seedling pots too long. I plant the
untreated seeds barely covered in regular potting mix, and start to
water in late September/early October, as soon as the nights cool.
They sprout easily and completely as long as they are kept out of
direct sun. Under shaded, moderate conditions, bracteata seedlings can
be persuaded to grow continuously for their first two seasons, which
packs a lot of weight on them quickly.

Mature bulbs are another story. I have found that my strain is
predisposed to a distinct summer dormancy, and they will become rangy
if they are forced to remain green. They will also try to bloom in the
summer if kept growing, and this bloom is not only poor, but also
causes weak blooming the next winter.

Veltheimia capensis has been a different story. Here, it seems to be a
finicky grower, and lacks vigor. I have not lost any plants, but they
are certainly taking their time achieving blooming size. I think the
climate may be a tad too cool here for them, because I bought what was
supposed to be a blooming size capensis bulb from Guy Wrinkle at least
three years ago, and it still puts up two or three leaves each year
and seems to just sulk along. I have about 5 seedlings of capensis
from Silverhill that I planted two winters ago and they are healthy
and progressing nicely, although nowhere near the rate of bracteata.

Ken Kehl
East S.F. Bay Area, Ca.
USDA Zone 9
-2°C to 38°C

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