Veltheimia capensis

The larger of my two Veltheimia capensis bulbs

Happy holidays to all of this blog’s readers and, more specifically, Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate tomorrow.

Blooming in my greenhouse, just in time to decorate a table in somewhat nontraditional fashion, are two bulbs of Veltheimia capensis, the sand lily.   Veltheimia is a genus in the Hyacinthaceae (hyacinth family) consisting of two species native to South Africa. V. capensis grows in arid habitat from the southern and southwestern Cape northwards to Namibia.  The second species, V. bracteata (forest lily) grows in the eastern cape.

My smaller bulb has more yellow at the flower tips.

V. capensis has a large bulb that often grows partially exposed.  In my greenhouse, the plants do well in terracotta pots with the neck and about 1/4 of the bulb above the surface of a well-drained mix of sand, stalite, and a little commercial potting soil.  The grey-green glaucous leaves frequently have undulate or crisped margins, adding to their beauty, but in common with some other winter-growing South African bulbs, the foliage has a tendency to wilt in hot sun.  V. capensis doesn’t want to grow in shade, though, so the trick is to give it as much light as possible while keeping the foliage cool.  During the summer, after the foliage dies back, I keep the bulbs bone dry.

Veltheimia bracteata

While V. capensis has glaucous foliage, presumably for protection in direct sunlight, V. bracteata has shiny green foliage.  The leaves of both species often have undulate or crisped margins. Compared to its sister species, V. bracteata seems to be more tolerant of shade and moisture during the summer.

The flowers of both species are variable, and hybrids have also been produced in cultivation, adding to the range of colors.  The extensive yellow color at the tips of the flowers on my smaller V. capensis makes me wonder if it is of hybrid origin.

11 thoughts on “Veltheimia capensis

  1. Happy holidays! I’ve just been trying and failing to see a bat in another blogger’s post which is no doubt why I seem to see a whole load of little characters with their arms raised in the bud area of the lovely picture at the top. I think I need a celebration drink.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t come across this bulb before but I believe it would grow in our climate, so one for me to try- if I can source one. Merry Christmas to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy holidays!
    I have a struggling V. bracteata that attempted to flower last year but something happened which rotted out the core of the bulb, so now I’m nursing along three sideshoots and hoping for the best.
    As usual amazing photos of well grown plants!

    Liked by 1 person

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