Veltheimia bracteata is just about to burst into full bloom in the forested area of my garden. A few months ago the beautiful wide glossy leaves appeared – signalling winter is here. This week the first spikes of the dense raceme of pink tubular flowers, carried on a long stalk, pushed through. What a delight this beautiful deciduous bulb is in winter!
The forest lily is easy to cultivate and grows well in semi-shade or full shade. The bulbs should be planted at or just below ground level, and not be disturbed. Propagation is done by offsets, leaf cuttings or seed. Offsets should be removed in summer, when the foliage has died down, and replanted immediately 30 – 40mm deep. Plants can also be propagated by using a leaf of a well-established plant; plant it in a sandy soil mix, and bulblets will form at the base of the leaf. It also grows well from seeds; sow seeds in autumn: germination takes two to three weeks. Keep the soil moist but not wet, and the new plants will flower in the third season.
Watch out for snails and slugs that seem to relish the leaves, and sometimes caterpillars will eat the flower buds.
Veltheimia also makes an excellent pot plant for a shady patio, or as an indoor plant in bright light but not in full sun. Feed regularly with an organic liquid food; once the leaves turn yellow withhold any more feeding until the next flowering season.
Veltheimia bracteata grows wild in the forests and coastal scrub of the Eastern Cape. There are only two species in this genus, the other being Veltheimia capensis, the sandlelie, which grows naturally in the dry, arid regions of the Cape, from the rocky slopes of Namaqualand through to parts of the little Karoo.
Veltheimia is named in honor of a German patron of botany, August Ferdinand Graf von Veltheim (1741 – 1801), bracteata means having bracts (modified leaves directly beneath flower)
Pronunciation: velt-HIME-ee-uh brak-tee-AY-tuh