South African Bulbs

Cultural Information

The bulbs and corms offered here are winter and spring growing and dormant in summer. The two main requirements for successfully growing them are excellent drainage and a dry rest period during summer dormancy.

All of these bulbs can be grown in containers. It is best to use deeper pots as the bulbs are often deep rooted. In the catalog bulbs marked with an asterisk are suitable for planting out in the ground. For containers use a well-drained sandy mix. I have tried several combinations over the years, some with more sharp sand than others. A mix that drains too fast, like a cactus mix, is not good. The bulbs need to retain moisture while growing. In fact South African Bulbs want regular watering while they are growing. A good bagged potting soil can be used for potting your bulbs. Avoid organics such as composted manure's. Plant bulbs to a depth of two to three times their height. For some bulbs (e.g., Geissorhiza, Hesperantha, Lachenalia, Massonia, Moraea, Polyxena, Romulea, and Veltheimia) best growth is under 30-50% shade. Full sun for the others. In very warm climates a little more shade is helpful.

When you receive the bulbs quickly pot them up in dry soil mix, they resent long exposure to air. For Lachenalia, Massonia and Polyxena water the bulbs in thoroughly once (make sure all the mix is moist) and then set aside until fall. However, do not start watering until the weather cools down. I start watering mid October. Plant all bulbs by the end of October. If any bulbs have begun to sprout, plant and water immediately. In the nursery I water my bulbs one to two times a week with occasional extra water when the weather is very warm. During the active growing period bulbs can take more water.

**Note** Begin fertilizing once bulbs are in active growth. I have come to believe that all plants prosper from consistent and regular nutrition. I fertilize once a month with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer, 1/4 to 1/2 the amount recommended. It is better to fertilize frequently with a low dose than infrequently with a large dose. It may not make a difference what kind of fertilizer you use, just try to do it often and at low doses. Discontinue feeding after flowering. The leaves of plants will then begin to yellow. This signals the on-set of dormancy. Reduce watering and let foliage die back. Discontinue watering when leaves have withered.

Stop all watering during summer dormancy, except in desert areas (Note: in dry desert areas keep watering during summer, maybe every 7-10 days, as you would your cactus.). I have often found that the soil in pots holds on to moisture, deep in the pot, for sometime. This is a good feature as total dryness in the pot is hard on some bulbs. Store pots in a shaded location. Some bulbs will tolerate summer water and can be left in irrigated garden areas (these are marked with an asterisk in the catalog); some of which are Babiana stricta, Babiana pulchra and hybrids like 'Jim's Choice', Chasmanthe species, Ferraria crispa, Freesia's, Gladiolus tristis, Homeria flaccida, H. ochroleuca, Ixia capillaris, I. flexuosa, I. rapunculoides, Sparaxis bulbifera, Sparaxis tricolor and hybrids, Tritonia crocata and T. lineata, Veltheimia bracteata, and most Watsonia's. For other bulbs pot culture is best.

Best of luck and good gardening.

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Jim Duggan

P.O.Box 987

Solana Beach, CA 92075

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