Blood Lilies

 The Blood Lily group of bulbous plants from South Africa are a wonderful addition to a garden. The different species flower at different times through the year and the one giving a great display now is Haemanthus (Scadoxus) katherinae.

Starting to appear in late spring the leaves and flowers tend to develop together with the flower stalk starting to form near ground level and getting to nearly a metre high. The flowers fully open from early to mid January and hold well for a few weeks. The salmon-red flowers are in nearly spherical balls which stand above the half metre long leaves and are up to 25 cm across making a very bold statement.

The plant tends to die back completely over the winter period though if it is a mild winter some of the leaves persist until the new growth starts in late spring. The bulbs are slow multipliers so it takes a while for a good clump to eventuate and seed is seldom set naturally so multiplication is a slow process. This accounts for the price one has to pay for a plant.

I find it is better to grow them in either dappled sun or light shade or at the most morning sun as the leaves get yellowed in the hotter afternoon sun. In shade the soft green leaves give a wonderful backing to the strongly coloured flower heads. Some water in the dry times is appreciated but they will survive droughts. Sometimes slugs and snails can be a nuisance, damaging the leaves.


haemanthus coccinea

A close relative that flowers in February is Haemanthus coccineus. This plant is a little more commonly seen. The flower head is like a bright red paintbrush with a mottled red handle sticking out of the ground. Yellow pollen covers the tips of the brush This is soon followed by two large leaves reminiscent of tongues lying flat on the ground. These leaves can grow up to 80cm long and 30cm wide. Again best in a bit of light shade but will grow reasonably well in sun all day long. Both are well worth growing.

Please note that Scadoxus and Haemanthus are poisonous in all parts.