Plant FinderPlant Finder Graphic
Zones 4-9, 12-24
Full Sun
Regular Water


Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials

These natives of South Africa are somewhat similar to gladiolus, but there are differences. Watsonia’s sword-shaped, 2 1/2-ft.-long leaves are less rigid, and it has taller, slimmer flower spikes set with smaller, more trumpetlike, fragrant blossoms.

Tolerates many soils but prefers good drainage. Plant in early autumn, setting corms 4 in. deep and 6 in. apart. Where hardy, corms can be left undisturbed for many years. 

Watsonia borbonica
Watsonia borbonica

Click to Enlarge

Watsonia borbonica

Deciduous. Blooms in late spring, bearing 2 1/2-in. flowers in pink, rosy red, or white on 4–6-ft. stems. Hybrid forms have pink, red, or lavender blooms. Foliage dies back after bloom, reappearing in fall. Does not need regular moisture during summer dormancy but accepts it if soil is well drained. In colder areas, treat like gladiolus: plant in spring for late spring and early summer bloom, then dig and store after the foliage dies down.

Watsonia pillansii (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)
Watsonia pillansii (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)

Click to Enlarge

Watsonia pillansii

Evergreen. Blooms in midsummer, with slightly branched, 3 1/2-ft. stems bearing 3-in., bright reddish apricot flowers. Hybrids come in colors ranging from peach to nearly red. This species can take less moisture in summer after bloom is over. Because W. pillansii is evergreen, it cannot be dug and stored.

You Might Also Like...

Anagallis monelli

Perennial. This Mediterranean native grows to 1–1 1/2 ft. tall and wide, with 3/4-in. flowers of...


With the look of a giant artichoke—they’re related—this Mediterranean native (Cy...

Convolvulus sabatius

This perennial grows to 1–2 ft. high with branches trailing to spread 3 ft. or more. Soft, hairy...

Find Your Sunset Climate Zone

Find Your Sunset Climate Zone

View Maps Learn More