TOW: Veltheimia

Wed, 28 Jan 2004 12:05:48 PST
At 06:00 PM 1/28/2004 +0000, you wrote:
>Please can I have some clarification on which is which of these species?
>Phillips and Rix Conservatory plants book says, although with some
>reservations apparently;
>V. bracteata, summer growing, dark evergreen leaves, flowering probably
>June-July (RSA), bulbs squat, round, fleshy scales.

Dear Bryan,

I have found over the years that much published information regarding the 
growth of South African winter-growing plants has been confusing and 
subject to misinterpretation, due to the annoying habit which many garden 
writers have - that is, describing growth using unqualified calendar-based 
terminology, with no mention of hemisphere. Also, information from cold 
climate growers who raise their plants in greenhouses (i. e. 
conservatories) is variable, and unlikely to parallel that of the plants in 

My experience in coastal Northern California - a mediterranean climate 
quite similar to many areas of habitat for this bulb - is that bracteata 
has a variable but distinct summer dormant period. If grown in the ground 
without supplemental water, the commencement of this dormant period ranges 
from June to through July. New leaves begin to appear shortly after the 
first fall rains, or with the advent of cooler fall weather, at which time 
the plants are crying out for rain. This is about the only time I will 
water them, other than that amount necessary to apply dilute soluble 
fertilizer. Scapes, which as mentioned, can appear on plants as young as 
three years, begin to appear in winter (December), but develop slowly, and 
are today (Jan 28) still less than 1 foot tall. It is definitely NOT a 
summer growing bulb.

>V. capensis, winter growing, wavy edged glaucous leaves dying back in
>summer, flowering April-July, bulbs long and narrow, papery tunic.

I am growing at least two different collections of V. capensis. None have a 
papery tunic, but they behave as otherwise described, with the exception of 
the flowering period, which I have not yet seen. I suspect that capensis 
would prefer to be in Southern California, where winter is warmer, brighter 
and drier.

>They are 24"" or so in flower.

This is only slightly taller than the 18" I am getting outside.

>Which am I growing? Mine look similar to the V. bracteata in the book,
>only much paler flowers.

>They are the most tolerant bulbs I know for house plants, probably more
>so than even clivia, I only wish the colour was more interesting and the
>flower stem was 12" shorter. The root system is surprisingly small for
>such large bulbs, or maybe that is the way I grow them.

I would guess that your paler flowers, 24" scapes, and relatively small 
root system are all indicative of indoor culture, and that your plants are 
V. bracteata. My bracteata thrive in direct sun until around noon - I try 
to give capensis full sun all day.

Near Berkeley, CA

More information about the pbs mailing list