Genus Lachenalia: Care and Culture

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The genus Lachenalia is native to Africa. A large number of species are found in the Republic of South Africa, mainly in the winter-rainfall areas. The genus contains over 90 species. These are bulbous plants with small to medium sized tubular or bell shaped flowers carried on a spike. The foliage is deciduous, and the leaves may be one, two, or many, often wide and enfolding the bloom scape; but the leaves may also be narrow and grass-like, as in L. contaminata.

In mediterranean climates, such as the one to which Lachenalia are native, thewe bulbs may grown outdoor in the ground. They will also survive and bloom in Southern California and even in parts of Florida.

The grow in winter, so they need some moisture at that time of year. They are normally dormant in summer, when they receive little or no precipiation in habitat. In cultivation, the appear to tolerate some frost in winter and some moisture in summer. Brief exposure to temperatures as low as 0°F (-18°C) may be tolerated. They should be planted in sandy, well-drained soil.

In cold climates, Lachenalias should be grown in containers. Since they grow and flower in winter, they need to be grown in a frost free but brightly lit location. they do best with cool temperatures and bright sunshine when growing.

Excessive heat or low light levels will result in limp and lanky plants that may not flower well. These conditions can also encourage rot.

When in active growth, lachenalias are heavy feeders. During this time, we feed with a dilute solution of a soluble, high quality fertilizer at almost every watering. A normal treatment would use about 1/2 teaspoon (2 to 3 grams) of a soluble 20-20-20 (N-P-K) fertilizer per gallon of water. In bright sunshine and at moderate temperatures, potted lachenalias will use up water rapidly. In the greenhouse, we may have to water almost every day during sunny periods.

In late spring or early summer, the bulbs are allowed to dry off and the leaves die. The bulbs may then be repotted and separated. Many species of lachenlais produce many small offsets each year. The plants tolerate a considerable amount of crowding, but eventually you should separate them. Repot the larger bulbs in an appropriate sized contianer having plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Use a freely draining potting mix.

Other Sources of Information

A valuable reference on the genus Lachenalia is "The Lachenalia Handbook" by Graham D. Duncan, pub. as vol. 17 of tbe ANNALS OF KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANIC GARDENS, National Botanic Gardens, 1988.
See also:
Cape Bulbs, by Rochard L. Doutt, Timber Press (1994).
RHS Manual of Bulbs, John Bryan and Mark Griffiths, Eds., Timber Press (1995).
Bulbous Plants of Southern Africa, by Neil du Plessis and Graham Duncan, Tafelberg Pub. Ltd., Cape Town (1989).
Bulbs, Revised Edition, John E. Bryan, Timber Press, Portland (2002).

Links to related WWW pages:
The Genus Lachenalia
Lachenalias in the Greenhouse

Return to Hyacinth Family Page Return to Bulbs Home Page Return to List of Genera

Shields Gardens offers Lachenalia at appropriate times of the year.
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James E. Shields,

Last revised: 4 March 2003

© Copyright 2004 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.