South Africa has the world’s richest diversity of indigenous bulbs. Our species are grown worldwide as indoor container plants and in gardens. Their fascinating growth forms, long-lasting blooms and ability to survive drought contribute to the popularity they enjoy today.

A bulb is a short stem with fleshy leaves or leaf bases. The leaves often function as food storage organs during dormancy. A bulb’s leaf bases generally do not support leaves, but contain food reserves to enable the plant to survive adverse conditions. The leaf bases may resemble scales, or they may overlap and surround the center of the bulb as with the onion. A modified stem forms the base of the bulb, and plant growth occurs from this basal plate. Roots emerge from the underside of the base, and new stems and leaves from the upper side.

South African bulbs are divided into Winter-growing, Summer-growing and Evergreen groups. Many bulbs are deciduous and undergo a dormant period, either in winter or summer. It is important to know which group a particular bulb belongs to in order to grow it successfully. Most bulbs need well-drained soils and full sun and, depending on the species, are suited to a wide variety of situations.


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