INFORMATION ABOUT WATSONIA LILY…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by Carolyn Jewel Watsonia, also called Bugle Lily, is a South African native flower with over 50 species that grow from corms, producing slender, sword-shaped leaves and long stems that hold clusters of tubular, showy flowers. The genus is named after Sir William Watson, a British botanist.
This beautiful perennial herb blooms in the spring and is quite large, reaching heights of around 5-6 feet tall. This remarkable bulb can be planted and then forgotten until mid-spring when its early dawn colors fill the air with brilliant sprays of pink, white, lavender, peach, or red blooms.
Many varieties of watsonia reproduce quickly and are ideal for filling in spaces of new gardens. Watsonia blooms over a long period in various colors and makes an excellent cut flower.
Watsonia also makes a great accent in the back of mixed beds and borders due to its height and combines well with cannas, mullein, and a variety of ornamental grasses.
Watsonia is a delightful, easy-to-grow plant. Its needs are few as watsonia is actually quite resilient. In fact, this plant is not particular with regards to soil, it requires little water, and thrives in hot weather. Watsonia plants are well-suited to Mediterranean-type climates.
Watsonia plants prefer to be located in well-drained, sandy soil but nearly any type will do provided it receives plenty of sunlight. Plant watsonia corms in the spring after all threat of freezing weather is gone, approximately 4 inches deep.
Watsonias start growth in early spring, and the flowering begins in mid-May, continuing throughout June. Keep them dry during the winter and start watering the young plants in the spring. After flowering, the leaves and stems can be cut back. Watsonia will thrive under summer rainfall conditions provided it is grown in well-drained soil.
Watsonia does require winter protection. A layer of mulch is sufficient for frost-free areas, while lifting the corms is necessary for colder regions. This is usually done at the end of autumn where they are thoroughly dried and stored much like dahlias until the following spring.
To avoid overcrowding and to get the most flowers, clumps are best lifted and divided every three to five years. Clumps can be lifted and divided at any time during the dormant season. Watsonia plants can easily be propagated by dividing the corms and planting or potting them in sandy soil or compost. You can also collect seeds; however, this method will take longer, up to three years, in getting flowering plants.
W. pyramidata is similar to gladiolus, but the flowers are smaller and bloom earlier. The flowers are always pink in wild populations; however, there are numerous varieties available in other shades as well.
Cape Bugle lily (W. borbonica) is the most common species found growing in gardens. This species is usually pink.
W. aletroides is a relatively small plant with distinctive pink, orange, or red flowers.
W. laccata is a small plant with rich purple flowers.