Showing posts with label african bulbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label african bulbs. Show all posts

African Albuca Bulb Belongs in the World of Weird Yet Wonderful

Albuca spiralis in early March, 2017.
If every picture tells a story, then every plant has a lot to say. I love to learn about a plant's background; it makes them more interesting. Knowing a plant's past allows you to visualize it in place and time, before they wound up on a shelf in a shop, displayed at a trade show, or on a bench in a nursery.

I tend to take better care of those I've chosen in person. Like the Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle', which I found in Phoenix when I was visiting my sister and attending a Chicago Cubs spring training game.

Here it is in the same pot September, 2017 after a summer spent
on the patio, its little green bulb began to sprout. 
It reminded me of a Charlie Brown tree, with its pair of wispy leaves emerging from a bulb that might have been the Martian version of Charlie Brown’s head. It was planted in a 4-inch pot and it cost
almost $20. Spending that much for a bulb in a pot with two leaves is, even for me, not a habit. But when I learned from its tag that it comes from Africa, I decided to give it a try. If I had to name my latest passion it would be growing plants that originated in Africa.

From the limited information I've found online, most sources say the flowers are fragrant. I didn't detect a scent so I put it in my bedroom with the door closed. I woke up thinking someone put a used frying pan on my bed. Not quite the scent of old grease, it smelled like a pan that had browned French toast or pancakes the previous day and hadn't been washed.

Flowers of Albuca spiralis don't have a pleasant fragrance--unless you like
your flowers to smell like a used saute pan. 
So although it can be described as having fragrant flowers, Albuca spiralis isn't something you'd want to bury your nose in. Unless you're hungry for French toast. Luckily, the scent isn't strong in a large room, so I'm not ready to cut the flowers off. I see them as a badge of honor, indicating that I'm giving the plant what it wants in order to perform as it would in its home environment.

So where can you purchase your very own Albuca spiralis? Logee's Plants for Home and Garden offers it for sale, as does Hirt's Garden. It seems plant purveyors are having trouble keeping this little wierdo in stock.

Agapanthus: From Africa to Indiana

This might be one of the warmest winters on record for the Chicago area. But to a bulb from Africa, it's not saying much. On a 65 degree day in February (yes, I'm talking the Midwest), I decided to check on some of the bulbs I'd attempted to overwinter in the garage.

I was amazed over how well the Agapanthus fared. It had grown and bloomed last summer in a pot that barely contained its bulk. I left it in its pot, cut back the leaves and tucked it into a cardboard box lined with more cardboard and put it on an out-of-the-way shelf in the garage. Just three months later, it's ready to start without me.
Newly repotted Agapanthus is raring to go.
Its new leaves were pale but perky, and seemed not to care that they didn't get any light. It's why they're nearly white--they can't photosynthesize without sunlight. I knocked the plant out of its confinement and, using a sharp knife, cut its root ball in half. Each half ended up the perfect circumference for my bloemBagz planters.   I've used fabric grow bags before and had mixed results, however, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I thought they'd be perfect to sink into a larger planter in order to be able to pull the plant in the bag out later. It didn't work, probably because the soil surrounding the cloth pot turned it into a non-breathable barrier, which led to rot.          
So this year, I'll be leaving the bloemBagz planter out on its own. If it starts to dry out too quickly, I can place it into a larger plastic, fiberglass or ceramic pot. I potted them so the soil level leaves about an inch of material all around.
Bloem has stepped up the fashion on their planters, which are made from recycled water bottles and other recycled materials. It's double-layered yet breathable, so it should be ideal for plants whose roots don't like to be constantly wet. I used two red planters for the split Agapanthus. After watering the plant in, the bottom of the pot became so saturated, and I had to find something to put it on before bringing it inside for the night (Wet roots + 40 degree temps = bad things). The pots eventually soaked up the saturation so that I could put them directly on the heat mat under the lights. 

Here in the Midwest, where winters are no walk in the park, Agapanthus would rather die than bloom.  I've learned that, unless you buy one that is in bloom and/or incredibly ready-to-pop-out-of-its-pot root bound, it will take another season or more before it's ready to give you some flowers. 

The Agapanthus I divided is the only one that has any chance of blooming this year. Dividing it will promote root regeneration and growth after it settles into its new digs. Which is where the bottom heat and indoor culture comes in. Thanks to the unseasonable weather, I was able to perform the really messy job of dividing and repotting it in mid-February. So it has at least a month's head start. 
Variegated Agapanthus in September, 2016.

Variegated Agapanthus in February, 2017
Another Agapanthus has been growing indoors since I potted three small plants up into a clay planter. It's called Agapanthus 'Neverland', and it's basically a short variety with variegated leaves. Last September, I was given three plants in 2" pots to try. I planted them all into a 12" diameter clay pot and have been growing the potted plants under lights all winter long. It hasn't grown that much on the surface, but judging by how quickly it dries out, its roots are busy bulking up for the next round. I will be very pleased if it gets pot bound in another seven months. Perhaps it will bloom in 2018. When you're growing a plant that comes from the other side of the world, you have to be patient.

Tropical Clover Blooms with Blood Lily

They're unassuming little bulbs. Tiny, gnarly, and brown, but with lots of potential. Oxalis deppei, also known as Iron Cross, is one of the easiest pot plants I know of. I ordered 15 bulbs from Easy to Grow Bulbs, and planted a few with a pot of recalcitrant Scadoxus multiflorus. Commonly known as "blood lily," Scadoxus is a South African bulb that has been growing and increasing in size since I got it four years ago. It's never bloomed, however.

I searched for information about planting and getting this bulb to grow, and discovered conflicting recommendations about how deep to plant them--either with the tips of the bulb showing above the soil level, or buried at least two inches. I split the difference and just barely covered the tips of the bulbs.

Healthy leaves of Scadoxus multiflorus last Sept.
I rounded up all of the bulbs (they'd increased quite nicely), planted them in two separate pots (one plastic, the other clay) and kept them indoors under strict moisture-limited protocol.

This spring, when I still didn't see any activity, I hedged my bets and planted some of the Oxalis bulbs in the plastic pot, figuring I'll at least have a pot of pretty leaves. The other Scadoxus pot I left alone.

I also planted a few Oxalis bulbs in a pot with Eucomis (pineapple lily) bulbs, just to see what would happen.

Scadoxus rises above the Oxalis leaves and flowers.
Just the other day, I was looking at what I'd come to think of as a pot of Oxalis with pretty leaves and cute little pink flowers, and I was surprised by the Scadoxus flower bud pushing up through the leaves. I searched through the thin stems of the Oxalis and found two more Scadoxus stems!

Meanwhile, the other pot of Scadoxus seemed poised to do something, but at a sloth-like speed. What I determined was that Scadoxus prefers some type of shade on its bulbs before it starts to grow. Alternatively, it was the additional care and water necessitated by the planting of the Oxalis bulbs that encouraged the Scadoxus to grow.

I don't know if it will make a difference at this point, but I planted a Pelargonium and some hens and chicks in the clay pot with the slow Scadoxus. The upside to this exercise is that, if the slow pot blooms I'll have flowers all summer.

Eucomis autumnalis
As it turned out with the Eucomis-Oxalis combo, the Eucomis autumnalis seem somewhat stunted. It was surprising, because the Eucomis seemed to be growing quite well until the Oxalis ran it over.

Next time, I'll either plant fewer Oxalis bulbs or leave the Eucomis to its own devices.

Oxalis bulbs begin to sprout in pot of Eucomis autumnalis (pineapple lily)
Eucomis autumnalis barely grows above the fray of clover-like leaves.