Sand lily (Veltheimia capensis)
The November meeting of the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society featured a presentation by Nick Wilkinson of GROW Nursery on cold-hardy aloes and agaves. Nick also brought along a great selection of plants for sale, most of them hard to find in regular nurseries. I bought several, but the one I’m most excited about is this unusual looking specimen:
It’s a Veltheimia capensis, and I must admit I had never heard of it before. It turns out it’s a flowering bulb from the western part of South Africa, its common name being “sand lily.” It grows and blooms in the fall and winter and goes completely dormant in the summer (its leaves dry up completely).
It was attracted by its wavy leaves, shown to good effect in the following photo from Wikimedia (although my plant has much bluer leaves):
For me, the leaves would be attraction enough, but the flowers are even more stunning. They look like a cross between the flowers of aloes and red hot pokers (Kniphofia).
This following botanical illustration from the early 1800s is a remarkably faithful rendition of what the sand lily looks like.
|Illustration of Veltheima capensis in “Les Liliacées” by Pierre-Joseph Redouté (published from 1802-1816)|
Right now, my specimen is still in its 1-gallon pot. It’s outside in a sunny spot although I did bring it inside the last few nights when it was just below freezing. In the ground, it should be hardy to the mid to upper 20’s.
The bigger question: Where to put it? It needs full sun in the fall and winter to bloom well, and in the summer it needs to be kept dry. Maybe I’ll create a special spot in the succulent bed next to the front door.
I’m very happy to have this rare and unusual lily in my collection.