Clear Mountain Garden Treasures
 

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Gloriosa superba

deciduous
Shedding of leaves at the
end of the growing season
see also Plant Life Cycle.
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tuber
A swollen underground stem, crown or root
see also Bulbs, Corms and Tubers.
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viability
The proportion of seeds
that are able to germinate.
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pumice
An extremely porous glassy volcanic rock, crushed and added to soils
and potting mixes to improve drainage but still able to retain water.
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tendril
A thin specialised stem, petiole or leaf
that supports climbing vines by winding around anything it touches.
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eye
A bud on a tuber or crown
that grows following season.
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slow-release
Granulised fertiliser enclosed by a shell that
slowly releases the food over a long period of time.
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viability
The proportion of seeds
that are able to germinate.
Hide
pumice
An extremely porous glassy volcanic rock, crushed and added to soils
and potting mixes to improve drainage but still able to retain water.
Hide
tendril
A thin specialised stem, petiole or leaf
that supports climbing vines by winding around anything it touches.
Hide
eye
A bud on a tuber or crown
that grows following season.
Hide
slow-release
Granulised fertiliser enclosed by a shell that
slowly releases the food over a long period of time.
Hide
Gloriosa superba

Flower
Family Colchicaceae
Name Gloriosa superba "Rothschildiana"
Common Names Glory lily, Flame lily

 More pictures

What a glorious flower! The green buds open to large greenish yellow flowers that gradually grow redder as they mature, through orange, scarlet and then crimson before fading. "Rothschildiana" has a thin yellow band on the outside of the petals and as the petals gradually reflex upwards, they twist slightly, giving a flame-like illusion to the flower, and hence the common name, "Flame Lily". The flowers appear for most of the summer and autumn until the onset of cold weather. It looks stunning during Christmas.

This tender deciduous perennial grows a weak climbing vine in the summer and over-winters as a tuber. In the spring, the V-shapped tuber grows two shoots, each growing into a flowering vine. In late autumn, the vine dies down and grows a new tuber each.

Gloriosa is the national flower of Zimbabwe.

This plant belongs to the autumn crocus (Colchicaceae) family, along with other plants such as Sandersonia. Like all plants in this family, they contain the poison Colchicine. Warning: All parts of this plant, in particular the tubers, are extremely poisonous and ingestion can be fatal. If you suspect you or someone else is poisoned, seek medical aid immediately and tell the doctor the name of this plant and mention Colchicine.

Germination

Depth: ¼ cm
When: In September, under glass, or earlier if you use heating.
Where: In containers.Use a mix made up of sand and seed raising mix (see text for more details).
Seed takes approximately 4-6 weeks to germinate.
Seeds lose viability after 6 months.

Pre-germination treatment


Seeds with pulp (left) and without (right)

Soak the seeds overnight between layers of moist kitchen paper towels. If you are collecting your own seed, they are covered with a layer of pulp (coloured dark red). This protects the seed and prevents the loss of viability during storage, but needs to be removed before the seed is sown.

Sowing the seeds

Sow two seeds into a 6cm tube or alternatively sow thinly into a shallow pot. Germination takes 4-6 weeks at around 20°C. The seedlings do not like to be moved, so plan to keep them in the pot for a year. Fill the bottom half of the pot with a 50/50 mix of sharp sand or pumice and a good quality outdoor/patio potting mix. Fill the top half with seed raising mix, up to 1cm from the rim. Sow the pre-soaked seeds and top up with another ½cm of seed raising mix. Water in and keep moist under glass until the seeds germinate.

Once the seedlings start growing, say when each has 3 leaves, gradually move out of glass to a partly shaded spot. Water well and feed moderately. If you think the seedlings are out growing their pot, you can pot on to a deeper pot. In the Summer, gradually move to full Sun. Stop feeding at the end of Summer and gradually reduce the amount of water in the Autumn. By the end of Autumn, the leaves would have dried, leaving small tubers where the seedling was growing. Keep these tubers in the same pot dry and protected from frosts over the Winter. In the spring, pot the tubers as you would a mature plant.

Protect your seedlings from slugs and snails. One snail can happily devour your entire lot of seedlings in one sitting!

Culture

Gloriosa is a weak climber using tendrils at the end of each leaf to pull itself up. It requires the support of a trellis or a large shrub. It can be grown in the ground if you have very well rained soil that can be kept dry over the Winter. If planted in the ground, the tubers will be very hard to locate after a few years as they will have migrated very deep. A better way is to grow it in a container. This is the only way to grow this plant if your Winter is very cold and wet.

The tubers that have been kept dry over the Winter should be started September to January. Start the tubers in moist 50/50 mix of sharp sand and old potting mix. After 1-2 weeks, the eyes at the tips should have moved and a few roots should have formed. Pot these tubers into deep pots, wide enough to accomodate the length of the tuber. The tubers should be planted horizontally, appriximately 4-5 cm deep. It is possible to plant 2-3 tubers in a large 60 - 70cm pot. Fill the bottom 5-10cm of the pot with a 50/50 mix of sand and outdoor/patio potting mix. Then fill up to 10cm below the rim of the pot with the remaining potting mix, plant the tubers, and top up to 5cm below the rim. Mulch to the rim with fine bark. Smaller tubers of younger plants should be planted shallower. Tubers that haven't moved should be placed back into the starting mix and checked weekly. Discard rotten tubers or those where the eyes have been damaged.

The v-shapped tubers are very brittle and care should be taken when handling them. Each tuber has two eyes, one at each end of the v. If an eye is damaged, the tuber will no longer germinate. It is therefore important to use a deep pot because the tubers tend to grow downwards and if there is not enough room for them to grow, the eye may be damaged.

Sometimes, only one eye will grow into a vine. The other eye remains dormant until the Autumn, when the vine stops growing, and as soon as this happens, the dormant eye sprouts. This does not give the new vine enough time to grow a replacement tuber and quite often a small tuber is the result. To prevent this from happening, it is possible to cut the tuber into two. Cut in middle of the v and dust the cut surfaces with fungicide. A good preventative and safe fungicide is cinnamon powder. When planting or starting cut tubers, place them diagonally, so that the eye is 5 cm below the surface of the potting mix and the cut surface, just above.

Keep the plant on the drier side but as it grows, gradually increase watering to daily. Feed once in the Spring (around late October) with a 3 month slow release fertilizer (such as Osmocote). Follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Plants started in September will flower in Christmas. The top part of the vine can be cut and used as a cut flower in a vase. These will continue to flower and will last for weeks. Be careful when cutting that you leave enough leaves to form next year's tubers. Dead head to encourage more flowers. Apart from the odd catepilar or snail, this plant has very few pests.

When the weather starts to cool in the Autumn, gradually decrease watering to once a week. Stop watering once the leaves start to turn brown. Keep the tubers dry over the Winter.


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