Veltheimia bracteata

The natural habitat of the beautiful forest lily (Veltheimia bracteata) is the forests and coastal thickets of the Eastern Cape. The large bulbs produce dense racemes of tubular flowers on long stems up to 60cm tall from late winter to September. The colours of the blooms can be variable, ranging from greenish-yellow to soft pink and dark rose-pink (the latter is the more common variation). The tightly closed buds are green or marked with green spots, and become pendant as they open. At this stage the sunbirds come to feast.

The bulbs grow actively in winter with glossy strap-like leaves with wavy margins. These die down temporarily in midsummer for a short period of dormancy, soon to be replaced with new foliage forming a wide and lush-looking rosette, making these elegant bulbous plants very welcome in a shade garden.

Spent flowers in summer are followed by seed capsules filled with black seeds that can be sown in autumn in a medium of coarse river sand and fine bark. Germination is normally quite successful. The bulbs can also be propagated by removing the bulblets that form around the mother bulb and replanting them immediately.

How to use in the Garden

Forest lilies are at their best when planted in great swathes at the base of shade trees. They are also perfect for the smallest space, just one or two of each will be lovely in a townhouse garden, in a pot on a shady patio or the shade of a tree or wall. You could add Clivias for a spring show. Shade need never be difficult again!

The Gardener