INFORMATION ABOUT ROMULEA IRIS…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by Wilferd Duckitt Romulea is a small herbaceous perennial growing by way of an underground corm. The genus Romulea is a member of the Iris family with about 90 species found in both South Africa and Europe, confined to countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
The genus name refers to Romulus, the legendary founder and first king of Rome. The common names of these plants include onion grass and sand crocus referring to their appearance, as this genus has flowers reminiscent of a crocus and onion-like foliage.
Many of the species are quite striking, and there is a great variation in the color and markings of the flowers.
The colors range from pure white, yellow, orange, pink, red, blue and mauve. The bright funnel or bell-shaped flowers of romuleas make extremely attractive container specimens and are easy to grow in pots.
The drainage for romuleas must be excellent, and the soil should be kept a little on the dry side during their dormant period. They are winter growers in their native habitat, which should be your guide in growing them. Be aware though, that these flowers are not frost hardy, so unless you live in zones 8 or higher, you may have a hard time growing these plants.
Corms only need to be planted about 1 ½ to 2 inches deep in well draining soil.
The best known species and most commonly grown is R. rosea. This is an attractive herb that is often cultivated as an ornamental plant. Often referred to as the rosy sand crocus, it is generally less than 8 inches tall with grass-like leaves. Its solitary flowers are funnel-shaped and typically pink-violet in color. The flowers also tend to open only in the afternoon and are closed in the evening and morning.
Most romuleas are easy to grow from seed and are usually quick to flower. Seeds often germinate in fall or winter, and flowering occurs in spring. Seeds can be sown in pots or for those living in mild areas; seeds can be planted directly into the garden. Plant the seeds in fall for the winter growers and in spring for the summer growers, dependent on your location and climate. Flowers from seed, depending on your climate and the species you try, will begin to flower in seven to eight months, with some taking up to two seasons.
Romuleas are not known to be bothered by any serious pests; however, small rodents, such as chipmunks, may sometimes feed on the small corms. In some areas, romuleas are actually considered as weeds, growing sporadically in pastures and along roadsides.