6 Indigenous Bulbs to Plant
A colourful, fragrant spring garden is incomplete without bulbs. Whether in pots or flowerbeds, indoors or outdoors, bulbs are guaranteed to add a wow factor wherever they bloom. However, they do require a little patience.
A beautiful blooming spring garden full of bulbs requires planting in autumn, and therefore some planning ahead. In your process of planning, the first question when faced with the enormous variety of bulbs available is, “What on earth do I plant?” For those with a penchant for indigenous gardens there are six stunning bulbs available now to fulfil any vivid garden desire.
This sizeable genus of about 80 individual species hails largely from the West Coast of South Africa. The genus name stems from the primates that typically eat the bulbs, as does the common name, baboon flower.
Although they may look delicate, these bulbs are tough and designed to handle any of the harsh climates of South Africa. Different varieties bloom in different seasons but most tend to bloom late in winter, making them a colourful pick-me-up during dull winters.
Plant your Babiana bulbs in full sun to semi- shade from April to June for a transition of winter to spring flowers. Babianas grow to around 20cm tall but their brilliant colours ensure they won’t get lost in your garden.
For an indigenous plant, the Ixia flowers have a wonderfully exotic look. The common name, wand flower, comes from the stems, which bear a collection of star-shaped flowers on their ends. It is also known as the African corn lily. The flowers come in several colours, with some variants even an unusual turquoise or green. The flashy petals contrast with darkened centres to create a wide range of depth and colour on a single stem. Ixias are slightly taller than Babianas, growing to about 40cm.
When planting between April and June, the best position for the bulbs to thrive is in full sun for most of the day. While they only bloom from the start of spring into October, these exquisite flowers are well worth the wait.
Tritonias, also known as blazing stars, have fiery white, pink, orange or red flowers. These bulbs pair well with both Ixia and Sparaxis as part of the Iridaceae family, and are a great choice for their reliability, ease of planting and ease of care. The cup-shaped flowers sit on thin elegant stems and look rather dainty, despite their hardy nature.
These bulbs need morning sun and afternoon shade and, similarly to Ixias, will only bloom in September through to October. They grow to about 30cm high and look great in large outdoor pots.
he Sparaxis flowers are visually similar to Ixia flowers, with pointed petals and a greater contrasting centre, giving them the common name of harlequin flowers. The interesting mix of dark and light colours on each flower set Sparaxis apart from the other bulbs. However, where they do not differ from the others is their willingness to grow. The bulbs can be planted with Ixia and Tritonia in clusters perfectly suited for a rock garden or patio pot.
Sparaxis flowers are the sunny spring welcome your garden needs. The flowers begin to bloom from September and the stems reach an average height of 35cm – a happy medium between the taller Ixia and smaller Tritonia stems. These bulbs require full sun all day
Although the name may be hard to say, these bulbs are luckily not too hard to grow. Derived from Greek ‘ornis’ (bird-like) and ‘gala’ (white), these bulbs grow tall stems with stark white flowers that make them absolute showstoppers. They look great in a garden but are commonly used as a cut flower as they can last up to six weeks in a vase. Instead of cutting the flowers, also consider planting Ornithogalum bulbs in pots for annual rewards.
Ornithogalum bulbs close off the spring season with flowers blooming in October and November. The stems are slightly taller at 50cm and need to be placed a little further apart due to their size. Plant in full sun all day to ensure healthy, happy bulbs.
Fragrant freesias are known for their alluring scent that just scream springtime. These bulbs grow wild in the southern parts of South Africa where winter rainfall brings them to life in August and September. The funnel-shaped flowers grow in a wide range of colours (white, red, lilac, yellow and pink), which makes for striking cut flowers when bunched together. With enough sunlight they can also make lovely houseplants that bring the sweet smell of spring indoors. Freesias symbolise sweetness, friendship and trust – a meaningful gift idea for friends or family.
Plant these bulbs in stages from mid-April to mid-June for a wave of blooming flowers beginning in late winter and continuing to September. They are slightly more versatile as they only require dappled shade, and are a good option for those looking for a colourful patio display, growing around 40cm tall.