Other flowers in our garden in late March 2024

My previous post was about the winter-flowering aloes in our garden winding down for the season. While they do provide most of the flower power at this time of year, they aren’t the only players. There are pops of color all over the garden, courtesy of South African bulbs, California natives, assorted perennials, and succulents other than aloes. Sometimes I forget I planted something, and it surprises me with an unexpected burst of flowers.

Lachenalia is a large genus of bulbs from Namibia and South Africa. They’re still a regrettably rare sight in American gardens and deserve to be grown more widely. The most common species is Lachenalia aloides, especially var. quadricolor. I started in 2016 with two bulbs and now have a nice clump. In fact, I’ve started to divide it and share the bounty with friends.

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor

A couple of other lachenalia:

Lachenalia aloides var. vanzylae

Lachenalia mutabilis

Lachenalia mutabilis

Like most bulbs, lachenalias die back after flowering, disappearing completely in late spring until they magically return with the fall rains. The interwebs say to keep them dry in the summer, but mine are in an irrigated bed and have been perfectly fine.

Veltheimia is another genus of South African bulbs. There are only two species: Veltheimia capensis, which has done exceptionally well in one of the hottest spots in the garden (photo here), and Veltheimia bracteata, which prefers a shadier (and damper) spot. I have several clumps in the backyard, and both are flowering now:

Veltheimia bracteata

Veltheimia bracteata

The loudest and most in-your-face characters in the bulb department are the harlequin flowers (Sparaxis, most commonly Sparaxis tricolor or hybrids thereof). After admiring them in my friend Marta’s garden in 2017, she gave me a bunch, cautioning me that they would spread. And they have.

Malephora crocea and Oscularia deltoides on the left, Sparaxis tricolor on the right

Sparaxis tricolor

As the species name, tricolor, suggests, most flowers have three colors. And they’re not all the same; this year, I’ve counted four different color combinations:

Sparaxis not only multiply by growing new baby bulbs off the parent bulb, they also reseed. Look where a volunteer popped up this year. Usually, only weeds and California poppies grow in cracks in the asphalt.

Another volunteer seedling in an unexpected spot:

After seeing Cheiridopsis denticulata, an “ice plant” from South Africa, at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, I planted some in the front yard. This year, it’s produced only two flowers, but they’re large and cheerful:

Cheiridopsis denticulata

Inspired by the spectacular display in Cricket Riley’s garden in Walnut Creek, I sewed 2,000 seeds of a white-flowering California poppy along the sidewalk last fall. (Cricket’s is Eschscholzia californica ‘Buttermilk’, mine is ‘White Linen’). I don’t know how many of the 2,000 seeds actually germinated, but there are plenty. They’re just now beginning to flower; I expect a nice display in a few weeks.

Eschscholzia californica ‘White Linen’

I love globe mallow, one of the most iconic wildflowers of the Southwest, but the most common species, Sphaeralcea ambigua, gets too big for our garden. (Check out a spectacular specimen outside of Phoenix, AZ. It was easily 4x4 ft.) Fortunately, Troy McGregor of Waltzing Matilija Nursery has been propagating a low-growing trailing species from Argentina, Sphaeralcea philippiana. I bought two plants from Troy last year, and they have performed exceptionally well, spreading enthusiastically and flowering almost nonstop. I know I’ll soon have to whack them back a bit, but for now I’m letting them go. If you want your own Sphaeralcea philippiana, you can order it from Troy’s website.

Sphaeralcea philippiana

My Plectranthus neochilus Mike’s Fuzzy Wuzzy’ (a San Marcos Growers introduction) used to be variegated, but after getting knocked back in the past couple of winters, it’s reverted back to its all-green form. On the upside, it’s blooming better now than it ever did when it was variegated. Go figure.

Plectranthus neochilus ‘Mike’s Fuzzy Wuzzy’ makes a good companion to Agave victoriae-reginae

Felicia aethiopica ‘Tight and Tidy’ from Annie’s Annuals is one of my favorite perennials because of its otherworldly flower color. It don’t know what else to call it other than blue, but what a blue it is. This dwarf form of a South African shrublet is yet another outstanding companion plant for succulents, like the Agave parrasana ‘Sea Star’ below.

Felicia aethiopica ‘Tight and Tidy’

Another member of the aster family, Rhodanthemum hosmariense, is in full bloom at the far end of the sidewalk bed. As its common name, Moroccan daisy, indicates, this cheerful groundcover comes from Morocco in North Africa. It’s hardy down to 10°F, which makes it suitable for many different climates.

Rhodanthemum hosmariense

Last November, I wrote a post acknowledging some of the unsung heroes in our garden – often overlooked plants that form the backdrop against which the “divas” can shine. Below is another one of them, Othonna capensis, a South African groundcover commonly known as “little pickles.” I’m not fond of that name, but I am fond of the dense mat it forms. The yellow daisy flowers aren’t spectacular, but they’re nice to have. What you see below started out as a cutting from my friend Kyle; in a little over a year, it’s grown into a sizeable clump.

Othonna capensis

And finally, a real oddity. The alien-looking growth you see below is the inflorescence of the Texas beargrass or sacahuista (Nolina texana). It’s densely packed with tiny flowers. Usually, it has a conical tip (see here), but ours sustained a bit of damage from the prolonged period of wet and foggy weather in January which also caused the tips of many aloe flowers to rot off.

Nolina texana

On that note, what’s in flower in your garden right now?

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. As an accredited flower addict, that's my kind of post! I've only has success with one Lachenalia (L. viridiflora), which I grow in a pot. Those I planted in the ground seem to have disappeared. Maybe I can blame that on my gopher plague but it's more likely they've been buried under other plants. Your Sparaxis display has outpaced mine but, if I manage to hold off on my obsessive deadheading this year, maybe mine will be better next year. I just moved 3 Veltheimia bulbs in the hope that more sun will lead to more frequent common floral displays. I share your love for Felicia and Moroccan daisies. My biggest surprise was that you didn't feature any Freesias!

  2. My favorite little bulbs blooming right now are my freesias. I have them in yellow, red, pink, white, and purple. They do great here because, like some of the bulbs you mention, they bloom in early spring after winter rain and disappear all summer. They avoid our hot temps! And the do spread also. They are not overly agressive but just right! I have one little Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor that bravely blooms each late winter. I wish it would spread around! I love all your beauties, Gerhard!

  3. Beautiful combinations and examples. The Sparaxis are definitely bright and colorful...they remind me a bit of Tithonias in their color and basic shape. And the Lachenalias have the similar color combo; it was fun to see them in Las Vegas recently. I really love the Felicias, too. That first photo showing the combination of plants is beautiful!

  4. Wonderful characters in bloom! I'm growing that Texas beargrass in rainy zone 8, planted in a concrete tube so it's still alive but unlikely very happy. That othonna is such a great plant. And thanks for the link to that globe mallow, will check it out.

  5. Quite a flowery (non cactus flowery) post! Your garden looks great after the winter rain.

    What's flowering here? Everything. Or maybe it just seems that way. Hooray for a non-drought spring!

  6. What a riot of colour. While all the succulents and cacti have great form all the smaller plants filling in around them make everything look very cohesive. Lovely.

  7. The Sparaxis have spread around in the best way, what a cheery spring flower. I've just added some Veltheimia after seeing your previous post about them. It's really a great time of year,I love going to the garden to check things out and be surprised by something blooming I'd forgotten about.


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