INFORMATION ABOUT WAND FLOWER…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by Wilferd Duckitt A lesser known, but truly excellent bulb is the Wand flower (Ixia). The word Ixia is derived from an old Greek name for a plant noted for its variable coloring. This plant is a native of South Africa, consisting of about 30-40 species, and is also referred to as the African corn lily. Its long corms produce sword-like leaves with star-shaped flowers growing on thin and wiry stems, reaching up to 1-2 feet tall. Wand flower blooms in the summer with flower color ranging from creamy white and bright yellow to soft pink and reddish-purple, all with dark, contrasting centers.
Wand flower prefers sunny locations in well-drained, sandy soil; however, as long as it gets at least partial sun, this flower is at home in nearly any garden. Plant the corms in the fall about 3 inches deep. Use wand flower along paths or group them in mixed beds and borders. Wand flowers also look good in perennial gardens with phlox, dianthus, or grown in pots. They can make excellent cut flowers as well.
Wand flower will multiply by producing new corms, and you can separate these in the dormant summer period. In cooler climates, when foliage turns yellow, dig corms and store in a cool location in a dry area and replant the next growing season. If grown in containers, over-winter indoors in the containers or lift bulbs and store. In mild climates, it will reproduce easily and can be left for a number of years until overcrowding occurs. When this happens, lift the corms in summer for fall replanting.
Green ixia (Ixia viridiflora) is one of the most striking and unusual of the Ixia bulbs. Each flower is a brilliant turquoise-green with an eye-catching purple-black center. This ixia has more flowers open at one time than any of the other ixia species. The flowers need sun and warmth to open and are at their best on hot still days. Flowering Ixia viridiflora makes an excellent container plant; however, they are susceptible to fungal diseases and need a completely dry summer.
Ixia curta is a vigorous species with numerous flowered heads of large, bright orange flowers with tan centers. Ixia dubia has golden-yellow blooms with small, dark blotches at the base of the petals and dark centers. Ixia flexuosa is a lightly fragrant species with lavender pink flowers and is more compact than other species, growing about 12 inches tall. Ixia rouxii is a late-flowering species having white flowers flushed with yellow or pink with large dark centers. Ixia polystachya is another late-blooming species with pink to mauve flowers and dark centers.
Unlike other Ixia species, Ixia paniculata does not close up on a cloudy day and will grow in sun or shade. It flowers freely and looks beautiful in a garden bed where it will multiply each year. This is one species that you can leave in the ground and not worry about. The distinctive characteristic of this ixia is the long perianth tubes on each of the creamy yellow flowers.