Babiana TOW

Alberto Castillo
Sun, 20 Apr 2003 16:30:18 PDT
Dear All:
               Babianas are among the most rewarding of all South African 
bulbous plants. It is difficult to add anything to Rachel’s superb 
introduction. I have grown Babianas here for decades (roughly zone 9b). They 
need full sun and a good summer baking when dormant. They are in clay pots 
16 cm in diameter in raised beds 30 cm tall. The plunging material among 
pots is very gritty. I have chosen clay pots not because they were any 
better than plastic (actually they are worse for this kind of bulbs) but it 
was a lot easier to find them the same size than were plastic pots. For the 
sake of tidiness it looks better if all the pots in the raised beds are the 
same size.  These pots are only 16 cm tall and although Babianas are better 
in really big pots they can be grown to perfection in this size (the minimum 
size, in smaller pots they lack depth).  I mention. Mix in the pots are 
commercial compost, crushed rock and coarse perlite in equal proportions. 
Corms must be planted deep as the buried portion of the stem produces 
offsets and this way the possibilities of a small clump forming are 
increased. They do well with very little fertilizer and are susceptible to 
few pests (mostly red spider mite). Flowers are gorgeous and all the species 
without exception have a charm their own that make them very interesting, 
not to mention that some are downright stunning. The foliage that is similar 
in all species is hairy and pleated and is attractive on its own. Species 
would hybridise easily and hybrids are fantastic in a range of colors that 
are not present in the species. Babiana species and hybrids are long lived. 
I have grown most of the species and they are undemanding under our 
conditions (full sun and mostly frost free in tunnels). Some can be half 
hardy in a protected sunny spot perhaps to zone 9. Those from Namaqualand 
demand  more care as to perfect drainage and frost free conditions. Babianas 
are susceptible to viruses particularly one propagated in Watsonias and that 
affect other irids like Freesia, Ixia and Sparaxis.
Those problems mentioned by Mary Sue, Jim and others are caused by lack of 
warmth and lack of light intensity. Much recommended for zones 8-10 both in 
greenhousse and in the open.
All the best

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