Haemanthus coccineus

April Fool


H. coccineus is widely known as ‘April Fool’ due to its tendency to bloom around 1 April, following early autumn rains.
The blooms provide a welcome splash of reddish orange and to residents of the winter rainfall region of southern Africa it is one of the most recognisable members of the genus. It has a very wide distribution, ranging from southern Namibia to Port Elizabeth. The bulbs are long-lived and best planted in late summer (late January to early February) so that they are in the ground before the flower heads appear. The flower stem extends from 8 to 40 cm above the ground, and the large fleshy bulb produces two broad (usually), tongue-shaped leathery leaves that grow throughout winter and die down in early summer. The bulbs are planted with the top of the neck just below soil level, in full sun or light shade. H. coccineus prefers a fast-draining, loamy or sandy medium such as can be made of equal parts of coarse river sand or grit, and finely sifted compost. Once established, the bulbs should be left undisturbed for at least five years or until growth and flowering performance deteriorate, because they resent disturbance to their perennial fleshy roots. Robust, broad-leaved forms of H. coccineus are best grown in rock garden pockets whereas smaller forms do well in pots of 20 to 25 cm diameter. This species is best propagated from seeds sown as soon as they can be easily removed from the bright red, fleshy berries. Thereafter patience is required as the first flowers can only be expected after about five years.

Article by Graham Duncan
The Gardener