By Nikki Phipps
The round, marble-sized corm corms of Baboon flower (Babiana stricta) produce enchanting, fragrant, cup-shaped flowers on slightly hairy leaves. The blooms open in sequence from the lowest portion of its spike on upward. Colors range from blue and mauve to red, white and cream. Read on for tips on growing baboon flowers.
Babiana Baboon Flower Info
The genus Babiana is endemic to southern Africa and contains about seventy species. The genus name is derived from the Dutch word baviaantje, meaning little baboon, and alludes to observations made by early colonists who noticed that baboons were very partial to the corms. Its common name ‘baboon flower’ comes from the fact that baboons used to dig up the corms and eat them.
Baboon flower is a long-lasting spring bloomer, with up to a month or more of flowering, and reaches 8-12 inches tall. This plant attracts butterflies and is great for borders, edging, and containers as a specimen plant. It is also excellent for naturalizing and good for growing as cut flowers.
Babiana Bulb Growing
This South African native performs well in nearly any garden soil but prefers well-drained soils. Baboon flower will also thrive in arid climates and sandy soil.
When used as an indoor plant, place the bulbs in a deep (6-8″) pot. When planting outdoors, place them only a couple inches deep in a sunny location during fall.
Stop watering when the leaves turn brown, and then resume after six weeks. In colder climates, the bulbs should be lifted and stored until warmer weather returns.
B. stricta is the most common of the three well-known species of South African babianas, although more than 60 species exist. Other popular types include:
- A similar but smaller plant, B. disticha prefers sandy soil. The flowers have an irregular shape, with two petals having distinctive white markings on a lilac or mauve background.
- B. tubulosa is distinguished by having a long tubular, pale pink flower with red markings on the lower petals.
- B. pygmaea is a very showy, deciduous winter-growing species with unscented pale to deep lemon-yellow blooms. Its name pygmaea, which means dwarf or very small, is misleading however, as this particular species is the largest-flowered of all the Babianas.
All Babiana species spread by seeds and corms. The corms can be easily divided.