One of the most beautiful cultivated ornamental bulbs, this South African native can be found in all but the very driest regions of tropical Africa. They have a wide distribution from lowland to mountain forest, forest margins or open grassland and are very common in the shade of trees along river banks.
Scadoxus used to be included in the genus Haemanthus, but is now regarded as distinct and seperate. Some common names for these bulbs include Blood lily, African Blood Lily, Torch lily, Paintbrush Lily, Football Lily, Powderpuff Lily, Poison root and Fireball lily.
These very unique and rare bulbs were named by Rafinesque, who commented "umb. glor.", which could be taken to mean glorious umbel. Its former name, Haemanthus translates to blood flower, from haima (blood) and anthos (flower), referring to the color of the spathe and filaments in some species.
The spectacular flowerhead is a huge spherical umbel consisting of up to 200 brilliant red starry flowers, with a lacy appearance that are held clear of the foliage at the end of a solitary stem. Each plant will produce only one of these 7-8 inche diameter flowerhead in a season.
Individual flowers are a pinkish-orange-red color with protruding stamens, carrying bright yellow anthers. The flowerheads last for about 1 or 2 weeks and make superb cut flowers.
The seed develops in the inferior ovary which is visible as a swelling of the flower stalk below the flower, at the tip of the pedicel. These will swell to form a green berry that will turn scarlet as it ripens. These decorative berries can remain on the plant for up to 2 months.
The spear-shaped, semi-erect, dark green leaves form a basal rosette after flowering that encircles the pseudostem giving the plant an overall symmetric shape. Leaves are large and thin-textured with a distinct midrib and an undulating margin.
The bulbs contain Lycorine and other alkaloids and are poisonous if eaten, causing only low toxicity. Symptoms include salivation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
This is a very useful plant for shady gardens, a handsome pot subject for a large container on a shady deck or patio, and as an indoor plant. It looks particularly effective in large groups under trees, where they do not seem to mind competition from tree roots, provided the soil is good.
In colder climates they can be grow outdoors in pots, or planted in the ground after the danger of frost has passed in your area. Pots should be moved indoors, or bulbs must be dug up before winter, and stored indoors.
Scadoxus rootstocks are planted just below the ground and are best left undisturbed in the same position for many years. The soil must be well-drained, rich and light, with plenty of leaf-mould or well-rotted compost. The plants benefit greatly from regular liquid feeding. Water sparingly during the dormant season and well during the growing season.
The seeds can be left on the plant until they start to look a bit wrinkled, and should be sown as soon as they are ripe. Gently rub or peel the pulp off. Using a light well-drained potting mix, gently press the seed into the soil. Do not cover it but leave the tops just visible or level with the soil surface. Keep damp but not waterlogged. Flowers can be expected after the third season.
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