The genus Bulbine is in the Asphodelaceae family and consists of about 80 species which are largely southern African in origin.

1218 Fig1 B mesembryanthoides 

Fig. 1 Bulbine mesembryanthoides

There are two growth forms: in the summer-rainfall areas they tend to have permanent rosettes of succulent leaves. In the winter-rainfall area the plants tend to be smaller, sometimes very small, and have succulent leaves during the winter months, which die away wholly or partly during the dry summers. These deciduous species have tuberous roots which enable them to survive below ground over summer. The flower spikes can be produced at almost any time depending on species and carry yellow flowers with hairy filaments that are characteristic of the genus.

1218 Fig.2 B mesembryanthoides r

Fig. 2 Bulbine mesembryanthoides root

One of the better-known of the summer-deciduous species is the haworthia-like B. mesembryanthoides. It is widespread in the Western and Northern Cape provinces and forms rosettes of about half a dozen leaves; occasionally it will cluster. In the northern part of its distribution, particularly in the Richtersveld, the plants have just one fat leaf plus a small vestigial leaf and this ecotype has been given the name B. mesembryanthoides subsp. namaquensis.

 1218 Fig.3 B mesembnryanthoides flower

Fig. 3 Bulbine mesembryanthoides flower

With a few exceptions, bulbines have to be raised from seed, which is relatively short-lived. I sow seed of the winter-growing bulbines in September, without any artificial heat. Most of the species will germinate quickly but there are some species such as B. bruynsii which are reluctant to germinate unless they have had a prior summer baking. I usually prick-out the young plants after 12 months and many will be flowering-size at around 24 months. The potting medium that I use is half grit, half John Innes No. 3 compost. They are watered through the winter and I do give a little water during the summer dormancy. B. mesembryanthoides will retain some partly shrivelled leaves through summer. There is a tendency for bulbines to lose their wild characters during the British winter so give them all the light possible. I have not tried LEDs, but they could be advantageous. Bulbines tend to be short-lived, so keep two plants and inter-pollinate them to get seed and occasionally raise new plants.


Terry Smale


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