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Lachenalia

Cape Cowslip

Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials, Flowers

Grow these South African bulbs for the spikes of tubular, hyacinthlike blossoms that appear at the tops of thick flowering stems in late winter or early spring. Each grows from two broad, succulent, strap-shaped leaves, often spotted with brown. There are scores of species, a handful of which are on the market at any given time.

Planted in late summer or early fall, cape cowslip does best where winters are wet and mild and summers are dry. Set bulbs in well-drained soil, 1–1 1/2 in. deep and 3 in. apart. Water sparingly until growth starts, then give regular moisture until foliage yellows after bloom. Gradually let soil dry out and keep as dry as possible until fall. Bait for slugs and snails.

Lachenalia aliodes ‘Aurea’ (photo courtesy of Gerry Whitmont/Garden Picture Library/Photolibrary)
Lachenalia aliodes ‘Aurea’ (photo courtesy of Gerry Whitmont/Garden Picture Library/Photolibrary)

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Lachenalia aloides

Stems to 10–12 in. high, with yellow flowers tipped in red and green. Inch-wide leaves. ‘Pearsonii’ has yellow-orange flowers with red-orange bases; slightly taller than the species, with maroon-spotted leaves.

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