Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gloriosa superba

Not a piece of choral music by Bach. A plant.

Planted this spring from strange, long rhizomes, and blooming now for the last week. Hailing from southern Africa, and lethally toxic, should you wish to chomp on that long, fleshy, underground stem. I have seen them scrambling wild on the southern, summer rainfall coasts of South Africa. Lyn McCallum had a beauty in her Cape Town garden, growing from a pot, and dripping with flowers, which I saw in January. So I looked for them, Stateside, and found them at Brent and Becky's. Five arrived, one was rotten, four were planted.

The flowers opened a disappointingly insipid non-colour, then gradually darkened, to my surprise. They are long lasting. The leaves have hooks at the end that are fiercely strong, once they sense the presence of a supporting branch or surface. You have to break them to get them free.

To my complete disgust I managed to break the stem tip off one of the four plants I have, so that I lost all the flowers. I planted it in a pot at the base of the New Dawn, hoping that it would scramble up the rose canes and make them look less...cane-y. Twit. But there are three left.

As to hardiness. Reputedly hardy in USDA Zone 7 if very protected, but generally hardy from Zones 8-10.


  1. Lovely -- thank you for sharing -- I've never seen these lillies before!

  2. Ooooooh! Breathtaking! all my favorite colors and so lovely. double thanks for sharing.

  3. Your Gloriosa superba is beautiful - love the varigation. Never seen this colour, someone must have tweaked them over there, wish I could get this variety in Cape Town.

  4. Are they successful at disguising the rose's leggy canes, and how tall do they get? I am looking for something to camouflage a persistantly black spotty Just Joey rose that is often nearly leafless for periods of time. The rose is otherwisevfairly vigorous, and as it was a gift, i cannot just get rid of it. I realize clematis is the classic answer, but the rose is in full baking sun, and i think clematis need cool feet. Please report next year if the gloriosa lilies survive the winter! How is that edgeworthis doing that you planted for a client? --Klaus

  5. Hello Klaus!

    I would say, rather than disguising, they distract from...

    I have clematis fulfilling the same purpose. Would their feet not be cool enough under the rose?

    The Gloriosa lilies do get tall - mine are at about 4-5 feet, now. They prefer to sprawl, rather than go straight up but those hooked leaves do hold onto just about anything. What I don't know yet, is what happens if one tops them, before, or after blooming. Will they send out new shoots? My friend Lyn's lilies had dozens of flowers and many side shoots - but the climate is Mediterranean, which may make all the difference.


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