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Garden Drums

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Amaryllis Christmas Star. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaPopular for their festive, oversized flowers, amaryllis bulbs are commonly sold for the Christmas holiday season. Varieties include single flowered, double flowered and miniature’s, ranging in colour from red to salmon, orange, white and pink, with many varieties having stripes or contrasting edges.  New hybrids can have flowers up to 22cm across and the double flowers from Japan are particularly beautiful. These large varieties usually produce a single stem with 4 flowers, and very large bulbs may produce 2 stems. Sonatini hybrids are true miniatures with blooms between 6 and 12cm across – this may not sound small, but for Amaryllis flowers it is! These smaller varieties make up for what they lack in stature with their blooming generosity, with a single bulb producing up to 3 flower spikes, crowned with up to 6 delightful blooms on each spike.

The plants we commonly call “Amaryllis” are actually Hippeastrum hybrids, and the confusion surrounding the two genera stems from their complex history dating back to the 18th Century. During the 1820s, British botanist, Dean Herbert (1778–1847), showed that the Amaryllis which is native to the Cape Province in South Africa, and Hippeastrum, also known as “Knight’s Star Lily” to be fundamentally different botanically and he assigned them to different genera. Considerable confusion has always surrounded the correct naming of this plant with many breeders, growers and traders persisting in referring to the plant incorrectly as “Amaryllis”.  Because almost everyone still calls these bulbs, Amaryllis, for the purpose of this article, they will also be referred to by their common name. To put it simply, the true Amaryllis is a bulb which belongs to our indigenous Amaryllis belladonna, commonly called “Belladonna Lily” – a genus with only one species that is found in the south-western Cape.

Amaryllis Sonata double Alfresco. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaHippeastrums, however, are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina, north to Mexico and the Caribbean. The Hippeastrum genus comprises around 80 species within the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes two other well-known bulbous crops: Narcissus and Galanthus. In the 18th century Dutch growers imported the first bulbs from South America to grow commercially, and this continued into the 19th century with even more botanists and explorers bringing back Hippeastrum species from South American countries. These magnificent blooms truly captured the imagination of plant breeders who worked diligently to create new hybrids and cultivars for the markets. Breeding developments continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, resulting in an explosion of new hybrids and types, in an expanded colour range. This period was also characterized by the establishment of many significant cultural research projects that resulted in the rapid expansion and professionalization of commercial hippeastrum cultivation.

In 1946 two Dutch growers moved to the Union of South Africa and began cultivation here, producing many beautiful hybrids for the world markets, and our bulb growers are still counted amongst the best in the world, with South African bred Hippeastrums being sought after across North and South America, all of Northern Europe, Japan, Russia and Iceland.

Amaryllis Sonatini Assorted. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaSpoil yourself this festive season with a selection of gorgeous Amaryllis – they are quite easy to grow if you understand their needs, and with good care you can enjoy their blooms year after year!

Amaryllis is traditionally grown in small pots but can also be planted into garden beds, where they look best if planted in groups. And, like hyacinths, amaryllis bulbs can also be grown on water by placing the bulbs on top of pebbles or marbles in a glass container and filling the container with water until just below the bulb. The roots will naturally grow down into the water, so never allow the bottom of the bulb to sit in the water or it will rot.

Amaryllis bulbs take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to bloom once planted out, and if you want blooms at Christmas time, plant them out around the 10th of November. This can be done by manipulating the bulbs to flower at a specific time, by placing them in a paper packet and storing them in the refrigerator. This tricks the bulbs into thinking that it is still winter and they remain dormant. Check the stored bulbs regularly, and if they do start shooting, plant them out immediately.

Amaryllis Symphony single Gold Medal. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIn the garden Amaryllis will grow in most good, well-drained soils. They flourish in sun to semi-shade, but the flowers will last longer if they are protected from the hot midday sun. Water your plants regularly in summer, never allowing the soil to dry out totally but not allowing it to remain soggy either. For the best results, feed every two weeks during the growing season with a special bulb food or liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

Most amaryllis bulbs must produce at least four healthy leaves in order to bloom well the following year.  Some species will grow leaves and bloom at the same time, while others will grow leaves only after they have bloomed.  After the flowers fade, cut off the stems at ground level and allow the leaves to continue to grow and nourish the bulb for next season’s blooms. You should also continue to water and fertilise the plant, but towards the end of summer gradually reduce watering so that the leaves die back naturally. Once all the leaves are brown, cut them off and allow the bulb to rest by lifting and storing it in a paper bag, in a cool, dry place for at least 2 months. When the bulb is ready to grow again it will start to produce a green leaf or stem, and can be planted again in fresh soil.

If the soil drains well the bulbs can be left in the soil and divided only when they become overcrowded. It is not necessary to water the dormant bulbs from about April to the end of August, and you can wait for the new spring growth to emerge before feeding and watering again. However the bulbs won’t be harmed if watered lightly in winter, together with other winter bloomers, as long as the soil has perfect drainage.

Amaryllis Symphony double Inferno. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you live in the winter rainfall regions, or have a small garden, you may wish to lift and store the bulbs at the end of summer, but only do this after the foliage has died down naturally in autumn. The mother bulb will produce small ‘bulblets’ and these can be gently teased off and potted, but they will only be large enough to start flowering again in two to three years.

Container grown specimens are treated in the same way as those growing in the ground, but if you are planting into containers, do so before they begin to sprout. Amaryllis love growing in small containers, so select a pot only about 3cm larger in diameter than the bulb. Use a good potting mixture that drains very well, and plant the bulbs so that a third of the bulb is visible above the soil. Water and place in a warm location, watering very sparingly thereafter until the first signs of new growth appear in about 3 weeks. Once actively growing, feed every two weeks as for those growing in the garden, and water when the potting soil is almost, but not totally dry. Remember, potted bulbs do not like standing in water, so empty the water from drip trays. Also, turn the pot regularly so that the plant stems grow straight.

When your potted plants are in full bloom, you may prefer to move them indoors to enjoy, or you may move then into a more shady and secluded spot outdoors, which will keep the blooms looking good for longer. Once the leaves have died down naturally at the end of summer, the containers can be moved into a sheltered part of the garden where it is relatively dry and warm, to over-winter.

Amaryllis Sonatini Amalfi. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaIf you are growing your amaryllis indoors, planting and caring for them is the same as for potted specimens growing outdoors. Indoors they will require very good, bright light, and although they don’t need sun, a little sunlight won’t harm them either.  To prevent root rot, water sparingly until the flower stem appears, but when it starts to grow, increase the amount of water you give, and check your plants regularly, because flowering plants are thirsty.

Amaryllis is a wonderful gift to give at any time of the year, but especially during the Christmas season. They never fail to delight and are certainly well worth investing in, and whether you are purchasing bulbs to plant out yourself, or those already in full bloom, these beauties are sure to steal your heart.

Find all your favourite bulbs and how to care for them in our Bulb Plant Section – signing up as a member is easy and affordable, so spoil yourself this Christmas with a subscription, its worth it!.

Gardening in South Africa

RudbeckiaAsk any experienced gardener and they’ll tell you that no garden bed is complete without a representative of this group of annuals bringing their particular brand of hardy good cheer. Dianthus is one of those all-rounder’s that satisfies, no matter your priorities. If it’s a colourful show you’re after these little stunners can be coaxed into flowering throughout the year!

If you’re looking for something different this summer, look no further than a globe amaranth, aka Gomphrena. You’ll be forgiven for the “what?” expression since these lovely globe like flowers are not very well known, at least not yet. Their intense purple blooms are an eye catching addition to any garden though and will no doubt have your guests asking about them before the drinks are even served.

Dianthus

The delicately fringed blooms, typical of many of the dianthus, lend form and texture to borders, rockeries, small flower beds and balconies while their generosity of flowers, with a little coaxing, promise a bright splash of year-round colour. Plant your seedlings 15cm apart, with a thick layer of mulch between the plants, in a sunny Dianthus position (although they will tolerate some shade in summer) in compost enriched soil and give them a fortnightly booster of a well-balanced fertiliser to ensure a bumper crop of blooms. Being “Water-Wise” Dianthus prefer infrequent but deep watering- another plus for this family of favourites.

Restricted to pots or simply yearning to bring your garden closer to your home? All of the dianthus group adapt exceptionally well to pots. Once in full bloom Dianthus can be brought inside as a living bouquet. Pay pots on sunny patios a little closer attention than you do the Dianthus in your garden by being more generous and frequent with your watering.

GomphrenaGomphrena

Gomphrena, aka globe amaranth, is a bushy, hairy leaf annual with globe-like purple flower bracts that sit atop thick stems. With South Africa’s hot and humid summers, our climate is ideal for these stunners to thrive. They are both heat and fairly drought tolerant and work well in both containers or as borders and edging.

Gomphrena do best in half shade and full sun positions in well-draining soil. They grow to about 60cm in height and make excellent cut flowers! The showy blooms attract butterflies too, so make sure to place them where they can be appreciated for both the blooms and their visitors!

Dill

Dill, an often overlooked herb is actually used in a wide variety of dishes, from the leaves which have a pronounced tang all the way to the seeds which taste similar to caraway. Grown in well drained composted soil, dill attracts your more beneficial insects like the tiny wasps that eat aphids

DillRudbeckia

Rudbeckia, aka Denver daisies, offer up masses of show stopping yellow colour in the form of a low maintenance compact plant. What more can you ask for from a container plant? Well they flower for months on end, attract butterflies and tolerate heat too, so a perfect December choice for your patio planters! Deadheading will definitely go a long way to making that flowering period even longer, and with flowering stalks between 45 and 50cm high, cut flowers for the house are not out of the question either.

Information supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. For more, go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za

Gardening in South Africa

RudbeckiaAsk any experienced gardener and they’ll tell you that no garden bed is complete without a representative of this group of annuals bringing their particular brand of hardy good cheer. Dianthus is one of those all-rounder’s that satisfies, no matter your priorities. If it’s a colourful show you’re after these little stunners can be coaxed into flowering throughout the year!

If you’re looking for something different this summer, look no further than a globe amaranth, aka Gomphrena. You’ll be forgiven for the “what?” expression since these lovely globe like flowers are not very well known, at least not yet. Their intense purple blooms are an eye catching addition to any garden though and will no doubt have your guests asking about them before the drinks are even served.

Dianthus

The delicately fringed blooms, typical of many of the dianthus, lend form and texture to borders, rockeries, small flower beds and balconies while their generosity of flowers, with a little coaxing, promise a bright splash of year-round colour. Plant your seedlings 15cm apart, with a thick layer of mulch between the plants, in a sunny Dianthus position (although they will tolerate some shade in summer) in compost enriched soil and give them a fortnightly booster of a well-balanced fertiliser to ensure a bumper crop of blooms. Being “Water-Wise” Dianthus prefer infrequent but deep watering- another plus for this family of favourites.

Restricted to pots or simply yearning to bring your garden closer to your home? All of the dianthus group adapt exceptionally well to pots. Once in full bloom Dianthus can be brought inside as a living bouquet. Pay pots on sunny patios a little closer attention than you do the Dianthus in your garden by being more generous and frequent with your watering.

GomphrenaGomphrena

Gomphrena, aka globe amaranth, is a bushy, hairy leaf annual with globe-like purple flower bracts that sit atop thick stems. With South Africa’s hot and humid summers, our climate is ideal for these stunners to thrive. They are both heat and fairly drought tolerant and work well in both containers or as borders and edging.

Gomphrena do best in half shade and full sun positions in well-draining soil. They grow to about 60cm in height and make excellent cut flowers! The showy blooms attract butterflies too, so make sure to place them where they can be appreciated for both the blooms and their visitors!

Dill

Dill, an often overlooked herb is actually used in a wide variety of dishes, from the leaves which have a pronounced tang all the way to the seeds which taste similar to caraway. Grown in well drained composted soil, dill attracts your more beneficial insects like the tiny wasps that eat aphids

DillRudbeckia

Rudbeckia, aka Denver daisies, offer up masses of show stopping yellow colour in the form of a low maintenance compact plant. What more can you ask for from a container plant? Well they flower for months on end, attract butterflies and tolerate heat too, so a perfect December choice for your patio planters! Deadheading will definitely go a long way to making that flowering period even longer, and with flowering stalks between 45 and 50cm high, cut flowers for the house are not out of the question either.

Information supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. For more, go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za

Gardening in South Africa

 
Diospyros whyteana fruit & pods. Picture courtesy Malcolm Manners - see his flickr pageBladdernut, Swartbas, Mohlatsane, munyavhili, umTenatane, uManzimane (Diospyros whyteana)
SA Tree No: 611

This decorative little evergreen tree is increasingly being cultivated in gardens around South Africa for its tidy shape and strikingly glossy, dark green leaves with a fringe of ginger hairs. The occasional bright red or orange leaf occurs, adding to the overall attractiveness of this plant. Scented, creamy-yellow to white bell-shaped flowers appear in spring, dangling from their hairy stalks. As with all Diospyros species, male and female flowers occur on separate trees, and only the female plants bear the masses of showy, fleshy berries that turn scarlet when ripe, and are borne throughout summer. Yet another attractive feature of this tree is its inflated, papery, balloon-like fruit pods that encapsulate the fruits, dry to red, and remain on the tree for many months after the fruit has fallen. The bark is another pretty feature, with the young branches being yellowish-green to pinkish and covered by fine coppery hairs. The mature bark is smooth and a lovely dark grey to almost black.

The Bladdernut makes a truly attractive and pleasing subject for any garden but is especially suitable for small gardens because it only grows about 6m tall. It can be shaped to form a large shrub or a small tree which branches low down and forms a dense canopy with a pleasing shape. Its dense foliage responds particularly well to clipping, making the Bladdernut a very good hedging or screening plant, and because it attracts all kinds of wildlife, it is definitely a ‘must-have’ for all wildlife gardens, great or small. Even if space is limited, it can be grown in containers or as a bonsai specimen, so there’s no excuse not to grow one!

The leaves are browsed by stock and game, and the fruits attract all kinds of birds, but especially birds like the Rameron pigeon, African green pigeon, loeries, barbets and bulbuls, who tug open the papery fruit covering as soon as they start to turn red, to get at the ripe, fleshy berries inside. The edible fruits are somewhat bitter and so not very tasty to humans, but traditionally the roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute. Traditional healers use bark extracts as enemas and for treating menstrual pain, impotency and infertility, and a leaf and root infusion can also be used to treat rashes.

This enticing little tree belongs to the Ebony family Ebenaceae, which is widely distributed worldwide, and from which the beautiful ebony wood traded by ancient merchants comes from. The wood of the bladder-nut is variable in colour, mainly whitish with brown to purple stripes. It is dense, evenly grained, strong and suitable for furniture, but large logs are difficult to come by, so smaller stems are used to make small household items and for making handles for implements etc.  

Diospyros whyteana. Picture courtesy Malcolm Manners - see his flickr pageOnly two genera are native to South Africa, Euclea and Diospyros. Diospyros includes the jackal-berry, blue bushes, monkey plums, and bladdernuts. Diospyros kaki, the edible persimmon, also belongs to this genus, but is not indigenous to Africa.

In South Africa the Bladdernut has a wide distribution and can be found growing naturally in forests, and on rocky mountain slopes in all the provinces, from the Western Cape and right up the coastal belt through to the Highveld, extending as far north as Ethiopia. It grows naturally in Afromontane forests.  Afromontane is an Afrotropic sub-region, and its plant and animal species are common to the mountains of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. The Afromontane regions of Africa are discontinuous, separated from each other by lower-lying areas, and are sometimes referred to as the “Afromontane archipelago”, as their distribution is analogous to a series of ‘sky islands’.

The Bladdernut is easy to cultivate and will grow in full sun or semi-shade to approximately 2 to 7m tall with a 3 to 4m spread. It is frost tolerant but young trees should be protected in winter until they are established. Once established, the tree requires only moderate watering in the garden to look its best. It will adapt to all garden soils with good drainage, but because it is relatively slow-growing, prepare the planting site well, adding lots of organic matter like compost and a generous dressing of bone meal. Mulch the roots well but make sure the area around the trunk is clear to prevent rot. Further applications of compost, manure or a general purpose fertiliser during the year will also encourage a strong, healthy root system and faster growth.

The tree can be propagated from seed, which should first be scratched (scarified) before sowing. Fresh seed germinates readily in four to eight weeks.
Bladdernuts are relatively pest and disease free, but may occasionally be attacked by brown scale or sooty mould. These are easily treated with an appropriate pesticide or fungicide.

Gardening in South Africa

 
Zantedeschia 'Jack of Hearts'  Picture courtesy BLOOMZ, New Zealand Arum Lily, Calla Lily, Pig lily, Kleinvarkoor, Witvarkoor, mohalalitoe, magapule, intebe, ihlukwe, ilabatheka-elimhlophe, ilabatheka-omhlophe (Zantedeschia)

Today a new generation of Zantedeschia hybrids have been bred from our original indigenous species; not only for their spectacular fashionable colours but for their sheer flower power. These new varieties produce many more blooms from a given tuber size, and the number of flowers produced by a tuber is directly proportional to the size of the tuber of each specific variety. Each year after the tuber has produced its magic, it will grow bigger in size, to produce more and even taller blooms the following season. These popular varieties are grown in the garden and in pots not only for the wonderful show they put on, but also for the production of magnificent cut flowers for the vase. Zantedeschia hybrids are easy to grow, and provide gardeners with a vast array of rainbow colours to enjoy in all shades of pink, yellow, white, cream, apricot, peach, orange, purple(almost black) and red.

Zantedeschias are members of the very large plant family Araceae which includes the well-known delicious monster (Monstera deliciosa); the Flamingo flower (Anthurium andraeanum); as well as the black calla lily (Arum palaestinum) from the Middle East. Arum lilies are wonderful clump-forming perennials which are grown worldwide for their lush foliage and ornate blooms. Most species are deciduous but some may remain evergreen; surviving the dry season by storing water in their fleshy rhizomes (modified underground stems of a plant). Interestingly, the colourful part of the plant which we refer to as the flower is actually a large modified leaf wrapped around a central finger-like stem called the spadix, which carries the minute but densely congested flowers. The coloured spathes can be funnel-shaped or cylindrical; and come in white, yellow, pink or red, with or without a dark purple marking at the base inside. The flowers are followed by green berries which ripen to orange.

The genus is restricted to the African continent with eight species recognised; seven of which occur only in South Africa, concentrated mainly in the summer rainfall regions: Zantedeschia aethiopica, Z. albomaculata, Z. elliottiana, Z. jucunda, Z. odoratum, Z. pentlandii and Z. rehmannii. The centre of diversity for the genus is around Lydenburg in Mpumalanga where four species occur: Zantedeschia albomaculata extends into south-central Africa and northwards to Tanzania; Zantedeschia aethiopica is widespread and commonly found in marshy areas; Zantedeschia elliotiana is known only in cultivation; and Zantedeschia odorata is restricted to Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape. Sadly Zantedeschia jucunda and Zantedeschia pentlandii are under severe threat partly because of their beautiful colourful spathes which are dug up by locals when in full bloom for the horticultural trade. Subpopulations of Zantedeschia pentlandii are fragmented and are also declining due to mining. Zantedeschia odorata and Zantedeschia valida seem to be less threatened by locals because of their white spathes, but need to be conserved because of their restricted distribution range.

Zantedeschia 'Green Goddess' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaIn the wild plants of Zantedeschia occur in areas with seasonal rainfall; growing in the grassland, savanna and fynbos biomes in full sun, less often in semi-shade. Most species commonly grow between rocks with their tubers buried in the crevices to keep them cool and to protect them from porcupines. It is believed that beetles are the main pollinators because beetles belonging to the family (Scarabaeidae) are known to mate inside the spathes, with the female laying her eggs at the base.

Pictures of all the following varieties can be seen at www.plantzafrica.com

(Zantedeschia aethiopica) The common or white arum is widespread and can be found growing wild from the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal; Mpumalanga and into the Northern Province. It is evergreen or deciduous depending on habitat and rainfall; in the Western Cape it is dormant in summer and in the summer rainfall areas it is dormant in winter. It will remain evergreen in both regions if growing in marshy conditions which remain wet all year around. It has lush dark green leaves with an arrow-head shape and grows vigorously to + 60cm to 1m tall. This arum will grow in full sun or semi-shade but will get taller in the shade. The large pure white spathes can appear anytime of the year but their main flush is from August to January. They are most adaptable, forming large colonies in marshy areas from the coast to an altitude of 2 250m. Because they tolerate humidity, salt laden winds at the coast, and freezing, misty mountain grasslands at high altitudes, they make extremely versatile garden plants and are the most commonly planted arum lily. Nowadays there are other forms of this species like ‘Marshmallow’ with its creamy-pink spathes and rose-pink throat; ‘Green Goddess’ with its enormous leaves and unusual green and white spathes; and ‘Spotted Leaf’ with its attractive large spotted leaves and creamy spathes.
 
(Zantedeschia albomaculata) is deciduous and grows in small clumps, up to 70cm tall; with oblong to arrow-shaped leaves, often speckled with white spots.  The spathes are cylindrical and a white, cream or pale yellow; often marked with dark purple at the base.

(Zantedeschia subsp. Albomaculata) is a subspecies with oblong leaves and which flowers from October to April. It grows wild in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Free State, Swaziland, Mpumalanga and Limpopo; extending into Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Angola and Tanzania. It is commonly found growing along rocky hillsides, forest margins and stream banks.

(Zantedeschia subsp. Macrocarpa) is a subspecies with triangular leaves; flowering from November to April with a peak in December. It occurs in KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Free State, Swaziland, Mpumalanga and Gauteng; growing in grassy vleis and on marshy ground beside streams.

(Zantedeschia rehmannii) The pink arums are small to medium plants 20 to 60cm tall, with lance-shaped, dark green leaves which are very rarely speckled with white spots. The cylindrical spathes appear from September to February, with a peak in November to January; in colours ranging from white through shades of pink to dark maroon (almost black). This arum occurs from Harrismith in the Free State and northern KwaZulu-Natal, through Swaziland to Mpumalanga and is commonly found growing in semi-shade amongst rocks on grassy hillsides; at medium and quite high altitudes; at forest margins and in sandy furrows.

(Zantedeschia elliotiana) is probably a hybrid of garden origin because specimens have not been found in the wild; and its suspected parents include Z. pentlandii or Z. jucunda; and Z. albomaculata subsp. albomaculata. This deciduous species grows +-60cm tall and produces large, very attractive, broadly ovate deep-green leaves, speckled with white spots. Flowers are produced in abundance from November to January; and the cup-shaped spathes are bright golden-yellow with a purple base.

(Zantedeschia odorata) is a deciduous species which grows +-70cm tall and produces beautiful large broadly ovate dark green leaves. The spathes are white and appear from July to August. It is restricted to an area known as Klip Koppies at Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape; occurring on outcrops formed by large dolerite boulders which break down to form a red clay soil which retains water well in the rainy season; so the roots are in seasonally very wet soil and occasionally in standing water.

(Zantedeschia jucunda) is a deciduous species which grows +-80cm tall with arrowhead shaped leaves, with triangular lobes branching out from the base of the leaf approximately at right angles. Flowering is from November to January and the spathe is a cup-shaped funnel which can be a deep or creamy yellow with a dark purple base.  It is confined to the grassy slopes of the summit of the Leolo Mountains in the Sekhukuneland Centre of Floristic Endemism, where it grows in full sun. Sekhukhuneland is a small area in north-eastern South Africa in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga which has rich biodiversity and a high level of endemism (species unique to a defined geographic location).

(Zantedeschia pentlandii) The yellow arum is a deciduous species which grows +-60cm tall with broadly ovate, blue-green leaves which are very rarely speckled with white spots. Flowering is from November to December, and the attractive funnel-shaped spathes are a brilliant chrome yellow with dark purple bases. This species is restricted to the Mapoch region of Mpumalanga, comprising the northern part of the Belfast District and adjoining parts of the Lydenburg District, where the plants often grow in dense colonies wedged between rocks.

(Zantedeschia valida) is a deciduous species which is quite vigorous and grows +-75cm tall with broadly ovate green leaves. It flowers from October to March, peaking in November. The creamy yellow spathe is a cup-shaped funnel with a dark purple base. This species is restricted to the region bordered by the Biggarsberg, Giants Castle and Collin’s Pass in KwaZulu-Natal; where it grows wild amongst rocks on the mountains, in clefts and on foothills; as well as on the banks of streams and in vleis.

Zantedechia 'Soft Pinkies' Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaUses:

In the pioneer days tubers of the common or white arum (Z. aethiopica) were boiled and fed to pigs, hence their common name ‘pig lily’ or ‘varkoor’. The common or white arum (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is used by traditional healers and the warmed leaves are applied as a poultice to treat sores, boils, insect bites, gout and rheumatism.  A decoction of (Z. albomaculata) is used by Zulu women to prevent repeated miscarriages and giving birth to weak babies.

Pets:

Because Zantedeschia contains calcium oxalate, and ingestion of the raw plant may cause a severe burning sensation and swelling of lips, tongue, and throat; stomach pain and diarrhoea is also possible; it is not advisable to allow pets, horses or cattle to graze these plants.

Culinary:

The leaves of the common or white arum (Z. aethiopica) are cooked as a pot herb by South Africans; especially in the African and Indian communities. The Africans boil the leaves before braising them in oil with onions and chillies, and serving with maize meal porridge. Indians braise the leaves with onions and chillies before adding tamarind water and boiling until tender. Tamarind seems to effectively break down raphides of calcium oxalate in the leaves; but if the plant is not properly cooked it will cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.

Although eating raw tubers causes irritation of the mouth, the tubers of Z. aethiopica and Z. albomaculata are sometimes cooked and eaten by communities in southern Africa; but though they are a good source of starch, the tubers are not commonly used as a food crop.

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Zantedeschia 'Treasure'  In the Garden:

The remarkable Zantedeschia is sure to impress any visitor to your garden; and today a new generation of hybrids have been bred from our original indigenous species; not only for their spectacular fashionable colours but also for their sheer flower power and rainbow of colours. These new arums need at least 6 hours sun a day and are lovely planted in containers or in the garden. When your planter is a mass of colour, bring it onto the patio, place it beside the pool or on the deck and enjoy the sheer magic in your summer entertainment area.

The white or common arum (Zantedeschia aethiopica) can be planted in ordinary garden beds, but is ideal as a marginal plant alongside streams, or on the edge of a pond; and can even be planted into a pot and submerged into water, as it does not need drainage. It makes a useful foliage plant in shade under trees but in deep shade will not flower very well.  All arum lilies make excellent cut flowers and the ripe fruits are relished by birds.

Cultivation:

Arums grow best in moist, temperate climates, but grow easily throughout most of the country as long as they can be watered regularly. Because the plants are generally dormant during the cold winter months they are reasonably hardy, but some species are hardier than others; and the colourful new hybrids are not fully hardy; so in very cold gardens protect the overwintering crowns by covering with straw, newspaper or even cardboard anchored with pegged down chicken wire. Ensure they are not overwatered – the cooler the temperature, the less water will be required. If your arums receive watering along with the rest of your garden they may not go totally dormant and the foliage will be blackened by the first frost, this should be cut away.

Alternatively, you can lift the tubers and store them until early spring when the risk of frost has passed. Store them in trays of compost, vermiculite or wood chips; in a cool, dark, frost-free place such as a garage or shed. Potted plants can be overwintered at a minimum temperature of 10°C indoors or in a warm greenhouse or conservatory.

Majestic Red. Picture courtesy of BLOOMZ, New ZealandThe hardy forms of zantedeschia are Zantedeschia aethiopica and Z. pentlandii and their cultivars. The tender forms of zantedeschia are mainly cultivars of Z. elliotiana and Z. rehmannii (also called Elliottiana hybrids and Rehmannii hybrids), but may also include Z. albomaculata and Z. jucunda. Zantedeschia aethiopica and its cultivars are also tender.

Except for the common or white arum which grows in full sun or semi-shade; they all thrive in full sun (at least 6 hours a day).  The common white arum (Z. aethiopica) will also grow well in deep shade, but the plants will grow taller and won’t flower very well. Although most species are have a period of dormancy, the plants may remain evergreen if they are watered throughout the year, or are grown in marshy conditions. In marshy soil they can spread vigorously, forming large colonies of plants. It is important to remember that they like rich soil containing generous amounts of well-decomposed plant matter; and respond well to regular applications of compost, kraal manure or organic fertiliser.

The various species vary in height from 60cm to 1m tall, with the flower stems reaching even taller. Spring is the main planting season and the tubers are planted roughly 15cm apart and 5cm under the soil’s surface. Tubers of the new hybrids will always remain true to their colour; but any fallen seed which germinates will result in a variety of indistinct colours; so to keep the colour true you need to remove all spent blooms to prevent the setting of seed. To harvest flowers for the vase run your fingers to the base of the flower stem and pull it out (do not cut with a knife as the remaining stem could initiate tuber rot).

To plant into pots; choose a large planter, preferably made from terracotta and plant groups of single or mixed colours, spaced about 15 cm apart. Dwarf varieties like Pot Black, Pink Pot, Jack of Hearts and Cracker Jack are perfect in pots. Use a top quality branded potting medium that drains very well and place crocks over the drainage holes to keep them open; this is very important. Plant the tubers in exactly the same way as you would do in the garden and keep in the full sun. When the show is over and the foliage turns yellow and dies down, your container will start to look unsightly, so move it to the back yard or another location where the natural maturation process will continue normally to produce an even more spectacular show the following season. Cover the bare soil with a thick layer of mulch or even layered newspaper to save the soil from freezing in the winter frost; and keep the soil damp but not wet.

Zantedeschia 'Picasso'  Picture courtesy BLOOMZ, New ZealandOnce you have planted your bulbs they can be left undisturbed in the ground for many years. Every spring simply give them a top dressing of manure or compost, and this together with regular, deep watering is all they will need to stimulate flowering again.
 
Propagation:

Zantedeschia plants propagate well from seed and by splitting the tubers in early spring. Large overwintered clumps in the garden can be divided in the same way as other perennials, by lifting the plant before there is much top growth, and chopping through the roots with a spade and dividing into smaller sections. Small rhizomes that have been overwintered in pots under cover can literally be cut up into sections, each with a visible bud and the pieces re-planted about 5cm deep. If the plant is not dormant, it can still be propagated by division by using a sharp spade to cut out a section for replanting.

The fruits can be harvested in summer when they are ripe and have turned yellowish and soft; remove the pulp and allow the seeds to dry before storing for sowing in spring. Sow into trays or pots using a well-draining seedling mix and covering the seed lightly. Take care not to sow too thickly as the new plants will need space to form their fleshy roots. Maintain a temperature of 20°C and germination should take place after only a couple of weeks, but the little plants will take 2 to 3 years to flower.

Zantedeschia 'Majestic Red'  Picture courtesy BLOOMZ, New ZealandPests & Diseases:

Zantedeschia is relatively disease and pest free if grown correctly but watch out for slugs and snails. Caterpillars and especially hawk moth caterpillars sometimes feed on the young leaves of at the start of the growing season, making plants appear leafless. They may also suffer from aphid, red spider mite or whitefly damage if grown in a very sheltered environment or under cover in a glasshouse or conservatory. Species with colourful spathes are more susceptible to soft rot, caused by the Erwinia bacterium. Conditions for soft rot are favourable when temperatures and humidity are high or nitrogen levels in the soil are high and aeration low.

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Warning:

Zantedeschia contains calcium oxalate, and ingestion of the raw plant may cause a severe burning sensation and swelling of lips, tongue, and throat; stomach pain and diarrhoea is also possible.

The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only, recording the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history.

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