Thursday, August 16, 2012

Boophane Disticha

Boophane disticha in a pot in my garden
     Every once in a while a plant comes to my attention that catches my fancy and I must have it.  Boophane disticha, a bulb native to South Africa and other parts of Africa is the most recent plant for me to obsess over.  According to Wikipedia this bulb resembles both Haemanthus and Brunsvigia but it has been placed in a genus by itself.  There are 5 or 6  species in the genus according to the PlantzAfrica website.  The bulb is poisonous and the poisons have been used for medicine and to make the tips of arrows poisonous.  The name Boophane derives from Greek words which mean ox death, referring to the poisonous nature of the bulbs.  The second part of the name, disticha,  means leaves erect in a fan shape.  Good pictures of this bulb can also be found at Bihrmann's Caudiciform website.
     This bulb, which becomes quite large and which sits on top of the ground, also has very attractive blue green leaves which form this very nice fan over time.  It was this appearance of the bulb which first caught my attention--it looks very attractive even when not in bloom.  The bloom, however, also appears to be quite striking, being a large red allium like ball.
     I have known about this bulb for a few years, but last year I purchased Haemanthus albiflos from Cistus Nursery and it wintered over in my sunroom very successfully.  This bulb which has somewhat similar requirements to Boophane, gave me the idea that I could successfully grow Boophane in a pot and winter it in my sunroom.  According to what I have read on the internet, some Boophanes are from summer rain areas of South Africa and some are from winter rain areas.  The significance of this is that if you get a bulb from a summer rain area, you can grow it by keeping it outside in the summer and watering it then, so that it grows then, while in the winter you can keep it fairly dry in a sunroom. It is more difficult to winter over a winter growing bulb here.
     So after deciding I must have some Boophanes, I just had to find a source.  The first source I found was Telos Rare Bulbs which had small plants of both Boophane disticha and Boophane haemthoides (which, by the way, looks pretty good too).  So I ordered three of each and recieved them in good condition and they are growing well.  However, these were very small plants and would take a number of years to get to the size I want.
     So I found 2 other sources--Arid Lands Greenhouses and Out of Africa and I ordered plants from both.  The ones from Arid Lands were also small seedlings like the ones from Telos, but I got the one you see in the picture above from Out of Africa.  At the same time I was doing this searching I also noticed that Paul Christian Bulbs offered what looks like a large bulb of Boophane, but it is very expensive.  I might have to order it nonetheless.  Finally, I notice that San Marcos Growers, the big wholesale nursery near San Diego, has Boohane disticha in 3/5 gal. containers listed on the current availability list.  Oh, to be in San Diego!
     As for caring for these bulbs, if they are summer growers and I am going to assume all of mine are, I am growing them in fairly deep containers (they have extensive root systems from what I have read and like to be in deep pots) and watering and fertilizing them well in the summer.  In winter I will take them into my sunroom and keep them fairly dry.


  1. You should try to get a Worsleya procera. If you have a sunroom, you may be able to pull it off.

    1. Hi Susan- thanks for the comment. I hadn't known about the Worsleya,but it sure looks like something I would like to try.

  2. Thanks for the info...I have had three "pups" that have been in a deep terra cotta container for over a year with very slow growth. I have them in a sun room environment all year. I will move them out into the sun (all day) now since it is warming up here in Yorba Linda, CA.