Jockey’s Cap Lily, Mexican Shellflower Peacock Flower, Tiger Iris, Tiger Flower
There is something rather mysterious and wonderful about a flower that lasts for one day only, its brief lifespan making it seem just that much more precious. This is the truth for the Tigridia species.
The Tigridia species are amongst those plants that display their individual blooms for a day, but don’t be put off by this: whilst a single flower lasts only one day, the flower spikes produce a succession of blooms so one can expect at least six weeks of bold, brilliant colour from a group of Tigridias. Tigridia hybrids bear eye-catching blooms in red, pink, yellow, purple, orange, salmon or white, with intricately speckled throats, ensuring that they make a delightful addition to any sunny summer border.
Tigridia bulbs are planted in spring, flower in midsummer and go dormant in winter. With just a little care, Tigridias are long-lived plants but, as is the case with all bulbs, watering properly is crucial for success. Every four to five days they must be watered deeply, to root level, to ensure that they receive enough moisture.
When flowering time is over the dilemma is always whether or not to lift the bulbs. If the soil is free-draining the bulbs should suffer no harm if left in the ground, however, if you live in an area that experiences wet winters it is probably better to lift them. If you do decide to lift them do not do so until the last of the foliage has died back because the leaves enable the bulbs to build up sufficient food stores for the dormant season. When storing your bulbs keep them in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place.
Tigridias are lovely but tough: they are healthy, resilient plants, and not subject to attack by either pest or disease. They grow very easily, so even if you leave them in the ground over their dormant season and plant other things over them, as long as they are in soil that drains easily you will find them flowering again for you year after year.
Tigridia Species Fact File
There are approximately 35 species in the genus (including four species previously placed in the genus Rigidella) most of which originate from Mexico and Guatemala, but also a few little-known species in Chile and Peru. The species that has the largest flowers and is most widely available is Tigridia Pavonia and the hybrids bred from it. The Aztecs knew Tigridia Pavonia as Cacomitl and grew it perhaps as much as a thousand years ago; today it is known by the common name of Cacomite in Mexico.
General Summer Bulb Care
•Before planting your bulbs loosen the soil to about 25cm (about a spade’s depth) and preferably dig in plenty of compost. Compost will help the soil drain well whilst keeping it moist at the same time. It also keeps the soil cool through the hot summer days. Most bulbs will grow in almost any soil as long as it drains well. Bulbs appreciate manure, but it has to be well-rotted or it may burn the bulbs (if the manure still has a smell it is not yet ready).
•Before you plant bulbs read the instructions on the back of the pack to determine planting depth, spacing, position and the height to which the plants will grow.
•Plant your bulbs in clumps, rather than dotting them around the garden, to create an eye-catching colour spectacle. Remember to plant taller-growing bulbs, like gladiolus, further back in the beds, whilst the bulbs with compact growth need to be near the front.
•The most important thing to remember when growing bulbs is that the soil must always be moist at root level, but not waterlogged. If you live in the Western Cape, or any area that does not enjoy summer rain, you will have to mimic the bulb’s natural habitat and give them a good soaking every four days or so. The water needs to reach root level, so that would mean about 40 minutes with a sprinkler. Put down a thick layer of mulch over the area planted with bulbs to combat evaporation and keep the soil cool.
•Bulbs supplied by a reputable grower will contain all the nutrients required to grow and flower successfully for the season, however, if you wish to keep your bulbs for another season’s flowers you will need to give them a bit of extra care. From the time they come into bloom give them a fortnightly dose of bulb food until all the leaves have died down naturally.
•If you want to lift your bulbs wait until they are fully dormant. Gently lift them with a garden fork, brush off any soil and spread them out to dry out in a warm, shaded position. Once dry they can be placed in old stockings, or in boxes filled with dry sawdust or vermiculite, and stored in a well-ventilated shed, garage or cupboard until it is time to plant them again in spring.