Pink paint brush, Rabbit’s Ears
A native to the summer rainfall parts of South Africa, H. humilis is widely distributed from the Eastern and Northern Cape to Mpumalanga. It is a very variable species – ranging from dwarf forms that are just 3 cm high to robust specimens that exceed 30 cm.
There are two subspecies, the widespread H. humilis subsp. humilis that has ‘included’ (short) stamens and the less common H. humilis subsp. hirsutus that usually has well-protruding stamens. The bulbs produce two broad, smooth or densely hairy leaves. Flowering, in pink or white, takes place any time from September to March. Both subspecies need light shade and are very successfully cultivated in 25 to30 cm diameter pots or rock garden pockets. They like a sharply drained medium such as one made with equal parts of finely sifted compost (or milled bark) and coarse river sand (or industrial silica). The bulbs are planted with the top of the neck at, or just above, soil level. An insufficiently well-drained medium results in rotting of the roots and, in extreme instances, the bulbs. The plants multiply fairly well by offset formation; the offsets are best removed and replanted in spring, as new growth begins. When grown in pots, in summer it is important for the medium to dry out sufficiently between watering, which should be at well-spaced intervals –typically about once a week. In winter the medium is best left to dry out completely. Forms from Lesotho and the Free State are probably frost hardy.