TOW: Veltheimia

Mary Sue Ittner
Thu, 29 Jan 2004 17:40:59 PST
Dear All,

Reporting from the wetter North Coast of California....

Several years ago my husband and I made a trip to New Zealand and were 
invited to visit Bill and Willy Dijk in Tauranga. We had a wonderful time 
and I came home wanting quite a lot of plants I wasn't already growing. One 
of them was Bill's wonderful mixed color Veltheimia.

Doug Westfall wrote in 1997, "If you need Veltheimia bracteata, I have 
them. They grow like weeds in our yard.  They 'spring up' wherever the seed 
blow to.  The bulbs seem
to get larger in the garden soil than in the potting mix".  I asked for 
some and he was kind enough to send a number of them which I shared with 
others as well as keeping some to plant out in the ground and others I 
planted in containers. Later I purchased a pale yellow one from him and 
still later I have some growing from seed that haven't yet bloomed. The 
ones I have kept in large containers are on my porch where the wind blows 
some rain on them, but where they are somewhat protected from the elements.

I have some V. capensis from Silverhill Seed and one bigger one Doug sent 
me. They have not bloomed yet. They look quite different from V. bracteata 
as the leaves are silver and not shiny.

My V. bracteata in the ground have survived and bloom, but they look pretty 
ratty as the season continues and do not look nearly as lush and beautiful 
as the ones I have growing in containers so my experience is really 
different from Doug's. But Northern California has colder temperatures and 
I get far more rain than he does. In fact this statement of his I found 
amazing: "My experience with Veltheimias has been that bulbs planted in the 
ground are better able to survive Southern California wet winters." 
Southern California's WET winters?? What wet winters? Perhaps what he meant 
was that Veltheimia bracteata as Rhoda points out is a summer rainfall 
species so we are lucky to be able to grow it where we get most of our rain 
in winter.

On another list people in year round rainfall situations reported that 
theirs didn't always go dormant. In my Mediterranean climate I have the 
same experience as Jaime. There is definitely a dormant period for me 
sometime in summer until late fall. The ones in containers resprout 
September or October, but then I get eager to see them again so start 
watering sooner. If I remember right people concluded they bloomed better 
with a dormant period.

Last year I experimented with some V. capensis seedlings exposed to the 
rain and some protected. My conclusion was that the ones that got rained on 
were not very happy. I believe this species often is found in very dry 
areas. At least that is where we saw it in South Africa both times we 
visited and always in seed already in August-September. As they get bigger 
I still might try one in the ground, but I suspect that I'll have better 
luck in containers protected from the rain.

I have a question about growing from seed and how long the seed is viable. 
I've had mixed luck growing from seed. One year I started seed in the 
spring and in the fall. The deer ate all my spring seedlings and they never 
recovered so I wasn't able to conclude if that was a good time. I've had 
good and bad luck with seeds. Some years no germination and some years good 
germination. Last year's BX seed that was supposed to be bicolors which I 
really was excited about yielded 0. I'm not quite sure why the mixed 
results. Would some of you who are always successful tell us what you do? 
Michael, Doug?

In another post so as to not make this one so long I'll share the Diana 
Chapman fire method from 1999 for all those people who missed it.

Veltheimia bracteata has got to rank up there with one of the best bulbs I 
grow. The leaves are just gorgeous and the flowers very spectacular in 
various stages. Veltheimia capensis in fruit in South Africa we thought 
really amazing too. One of these days I'll get one of those pictures added 
to the wiki.

As for the possibility of virus, Doug and I both thought some we saw at 
Cathy Craig's house a couple of years ago looked virused although others 
she had looked fine. If I had any that looked suspect, I think I would give 
them a decent burial.

And Michael L., are Veltheimias hardy in Cleveland or are you growing them 
in greenhouses?

Also when I was looking for Diana's post I found this one from John Bryan:
"In "Plants of Southern Africa: Names and Distribution, published in 1993 
by the National Botanical Institute, two species of Veltheimia are noted. 
V. bracteata, which includes V. undulata and V. viridifolia and V. capensis 
which includes V. deasii, V. glauca and D. roodeae. There would seem to be 
greater variation within V. capensis than V. bracteata Plants cultivated 
under V. deasii would appear to be variants of V. capensis.

Mary Sue

Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

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