Thursday, 3 July 2014


I noticed today that the flower buds on my Veltheimias were starting to stand proud, surely a sign that we have reached mid-winter the peak growing time for this little used garden plant. I first came across Veltheimia bracteata several years ago when working at historic Vaucluse House, where it was planted in dappled-shade on a gentle-sloping bank between a garden path and some camellias.

Veltheimia bracteata flowers about to 'blow'

The two species of Veltheimia come from South Africa and are named after a certain count of Veltheim (whoever he was).  A small growing bulb, the foliage grows to about 30cm tall, and the plant looks a little like Lachenalia or small Kniphofias. While easy to grow this plant requires good drainage and a half decent garden soil. While I have used them in gardens I find that Velthemia make great outdoor pot plants, and they look wonderful growing on my antique wire-work plant stand. When grown in a container use a good quality potting mix without water-holding crystals. Plants form a glossy rosette of leaves in early winter and they flower later in the season.  While most blooms are coral pink, some varieties have cream or yellow flowers. During summer the foliage dies down and I retire my pot to a dry and shady part of the garden during its dormancy. If planted in the soil the bulbs can be left in the ground as long as they don’t get too wet. The best time to transplant or divide is in autumn. Plants can be propagated from seed or offsets removed from the main bulb in late summer.

Veltheimias in full bloom 

Every garden should have a few unusual plants and this South African bulb is definitely worth trying, I promise you will be asked about it when it’s in bloom. While hardly a rare plant, Veltheimia can be sourced from specialist bulb nurseries such as Sue and Garry Reid's rare and speciality bulb nursery in northern Victoria. The Reids have a mail order service and can be contacted at 43 Wallace Road, Allans Flat, Victoria 3691 (tel 02: 6027 1514)
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