Babiana is a large genus in the family Iridaceae. Most of these species are concentrated in the southwestern Cape, with the rest mainly in Namaqualand and northern Cape. Their range is from southern Namibia to the Eastern Cape to southern Zimbabwe. There was one species from Socotra, Babiana socotrana, off the coast of Somalia, but it is now considered to be Cyanixia socotrana, the sole species in the genus Cyanixia.
All babianas are deciduous, either winter or summer growing. Most are winter growing. Like most other winter growing (or Mediterranean climate) irids, they start their growth cycle in autumn when the first rains fall. The leaves push through the soil and the plants grow. They grow through the winter, and as spring approaches, they produce flower buds. Some species flower early in spring, and others late, almost into summer. Most species are in seed in early summer, and as the rains finish and the weather heats up, they go dormant again. To successfully grow them, one needs to remember this growth cycle. Start to water them in autumn, water through the winter, and stop in late spring when the plants show signs of going dormant. They will do best in a sunny aspect with free air circulation. The plants are drought tolerant and they vary in hardiness, but probably will not like anything below 25 °F (about -5 °C).
Growing medium - they all require well drained potting medium consisting of 2 parts sand, 1 part loam and perhaps 1 part compost, depending on the species. Because of the contractile roots, babianas pull their corms to the bottom of the pot, and they grow best in large pots (12 inch or more). Some grow between paving stones (in a similar situation to their natural growth habit) and although our garden is watered year round, they don't seem to rot and they flower profusely each spring. Our garden soil is very sandy and well drained, and perhaps that explains it. Most of the babianas that are commonly grown are hybrids, mainly of Babiana stricta, but many of the species are far more beautiful and rewarding. The flowers are long lasting and brightly coloured, and many are scented as a bonus. Above information furnished by Rachel Saunders when she led the Pacific Bulb Society list discussion for the topic of the week in April 2003. This genus was revised in 2007 by Peter Goldblatt and John C. Manning.
Babianas can expand and bloom in mass in garden situations to their liking. The first photo shows babianas growing in Mary Sue Ittner's Northern California garden and the second and third photos from Liz Waterman and Nhu Nguyen shows many blooming in the UC Botanical Garden. The last photo from Mary Sue Ittner shows an opening fruit with seed.
For photos and information of species select the appropriate wiki page:
or click on the name in the table below: