Lachenalia and Albuca

Mary Sue Ittner
Tue, 09 Nov 2004 09:35:05 PST
Dear Joe,

I'm a big fan of Lachenalia and I don't think it photographs well. I 
noticed that when I saw it in the wild with some very notable exception it 
didn't grab your attention as some of the other things did. For one thing 
it often has dramatic leaves and/or spotted stems and to capture them and 
the flower both is a challenge. But it means like Cyclamen you can enjoy 
the leaves even when it isn't yet flowering. I think they are much more 
attractive than you'd realize from looking at pictures of them. What is 
pretty to me however may not be pretty to you and what is easy probably 
varies too by climate and resources (shelter, greenhouse, etc.) for growing 
them. There are a number from very dry areas that I have a difficult time 
growing, but someone in Southern California might find easy. Graham 
Duncan's book, The Lachenalia Handbook, describes how easy each species is 
in cultivation, at least for him. It is well worth getting if you are going 
to grow many of these species.

I absolutely love most of the Lachenalia aloides varieties. One that did 
well for years outside for me was recently offered in the BX (L. aloides 
quadricolor). It would start blooming in winter and stand up to rain and 
was so bright and colorful. L. aloides aurea is another one I don't think 
looks as good in a photo as in person, but I give it high marks. Lachenalia 
unicolor/pustulata (very similar and hard to tell apart) I think of as very 
easy, quick from seed. L. orthopetala and L. contaminata with similar 
leaves are also very attractive, long blooming. For massing, L. mutabilis 
and L. pallida are good. For leaves and flowers both: L. nervosa and L. 
purpureo-caerulea. I think you'd really just have to go by what appeals to you.

Many of them are not very hardy. Where you live it doesn't usually get that 
cold, but you still might have to protect them from time to time in winter. 
One cold year I lost most of mine. Most of the easily obtainable species 
are winter growing and best kept dry in summer which I expect might be more 
of a challenge for you. Most people tell you not to store them out of their 
pots. You'd probably be better advised by someone in the south who has 
tried growing these. Anyone out there in that category?

My Albuca spiralis has never had coiled leaves, alas, but the one I put a 
picture of on the wiki is nicely sprung at the moment. I like its leaves 
better than I do its flowers however, but that's just a personal opinion, 
not meant to offend any Albuca fans.

Mary Sue

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