Find out how to Develop and Take care of Forest Lilies

Veltheimia bracteata

The forest lily, Veltheimia bracteata, aka Cape lily, is a decorative bulb flower within the Asparagaceae household.

It’s native to the Japanese Cape province of South Africa, a scrub plant rambling alongside wooded shorelines.

A horizontal photo of several forest lilies in bloom growing in a greenhouse.

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Suited to backyard cultivation in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11, the forest lily prefers gentle shade and sports activities pointed clusters of tubular pink blossoms perched atop placing naked stems from late winter to spring.

This text discusses all you might want to know to develop the forest lily in your outside residing house.

Right here’s what we’ll cowl:

Let’s start with some background.

Cultivation and Historical past

V. bracteata grows from a bulb enclosed in a papery tunic.

The plant has a clumping progress behavior with foliage that’s semi-deciduous; it’s practically evergreen within the warmest areas, and the leaves wither and die in cooler areas.

Basal rosettes of strap-like, ruffled, shiny leaves are pale to darkish inexperienced.

A vertical close up photo of a yellow blooming forest lily.
Picture by SAplants, Wikimedia Commons, through CC BY-SA.

Fleshy, naked, inexperienced or purple flower stems rise from the rosettes and bear terminal clusters of blooms that open from backside to high and final roughly 4 weeks.

Along with shades of pink starting from darkish to gentle, the flowers might also be yellowish-green. The erect buds open to disclose drooping or pendant blossoms.

Mature dimensions are 18 to 24 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches extensive.

Crops tolerate gentle frost, offered they aren’t uncovered to morning solar after a moist, chilly night time. From late summer season to fall they endure a brief interval of dormancy.

After reclassification, the Veltheimia genus presently incorporates solely two species: V. bracteata and V. capensis.

A vertical photo of a full forest lily plant with dark green spiky leaves and a tall stalk with pink blooms.
Picture by Brian du Preez, Wikimedia Commons, through CC BY-SA.

V. capensis, often called the sand lily, has a distinguished, fleshy bulb. It grows to about 18 inches tall, has gray-green deciduous foliage, and produces tubular flowers that vary from white speckled with purple to pink with inexperienced or purple accents.

This species prefers full to half solar and blooms from fall to winter.

Throughout the late 18th century, many species had been dropped at Europe by adventurous plant hunters. They discovered their method to venues on the forefront of horticultural development and locations like Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

V. bracteata seemingly arrived in Britain in 1781. It was initially named Aletris glauca by Scottish botanist William Aiton in 1789 and subsequently moved to the Veltheimia genus.

The Veltheimia genus honors August Ferdinand Graf von Veltheim, an 18th century German mineralogist and geologist, Catherine the Nice’s normal inspector of mines and saltworks, and the second in Veltheim’s household to supervise the famed Harbke Palace Gardens in Germany.

As you study extra concerning the forest lily, you could stumble upon one other plant with an analogous identify, the green-tip forest lily, Clivia nobilis. This species has purple tubular blossoms tipped with inexperienced and darkish inexperienced, strapp-like, non-ruffled foliage, and is usually grown as a houseplant.

The forest lily resembles the purple scorching poker plant, Kniphofia spp., a sun-loving South African perennial with purple and yellow tubular flower clusters.

Forest Lily Propagation

To develop the forest lily, you can begin with bulbs, seeds, leaf cuttings, or offset divisions, or transplant seedlings or nursery specimens. Let’s take a look at every technique.

Along with these propagation strategies, breeders use in vitro plant tissue tradition in a laboratory setting to clone V. bracteata.

From Bulbs

In early fall, choose agency and dry bulbs with no gentle spots or discolorations. The papery outer tunics must be principally, if not utterly, intact.

Sow them in moistened sandy loam in a pot with a width of at the least six inches, or out within the backyard. Face the sharp suggestions upwards and bury them about an inch deep, with the neck uncovered.

Place them in a shady location.

Hold the soil evenly moist. When the leaves sprout, water when the highest inch of soil is dry and fertilize with a diluted liquid plant meals each two weeks.

From Seeds

By midsummer, little puffy capsules containing seeds seem. When they’re dry, it’s time to reap the black seeds inside them for fall planting.

Retailer them in an hermetic jar in a cool, dry location away from direct daylight till the autumn, when the climate is cooler and extra appropriate for sowing.

Use a seed tray or peat pots with a depth of three inches. Sow the seeds in sandy loam roughly a tenth of an inch deep. Hold the soil moist however not soggy, and place the sowed seeds in a shady outside location.

Seeds should endure a day-to-night temperature change to germinate. They often sprout in two to a few weeks. 

As soon as the leaves are seen, start feeding each two weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer.

At first of the third season, transplant to the backyard. Anticipate flowers in three to 4 years.

From Leaf Cuttings

Some growers begin vegetation from leaf cuttings. Right here’s how:

Water the plant completely the day earlier than you are taking your reducing. Fill a six-inch container with sandy loam or well-draining potting combine.

Use a clear knife to slice by a mature leaf close to its base with out damaging neighboring foliage.

Dip the reduce finish into rooting hormone powder.

Bury the leaf simply deep sufficient to permit it to face upright. If the leaf is unwieldy, you possibly can slice it in half widthwise and use the highest half as an alternative of the entire leaf.

Hold the soil evenly moist. The leaf will regularly die as offsets kind at its base. Switch offsets to the backyard as desired.

By Offset Division

The time to divide offsets is in late summer season throughout dormancy, when blooming is completed, and in cooler areas, when the leaves have withered.

Fastidiously dig round and beneath a clump of bulbs to unearth them. Brush the soil off, and gently separate the father or mother bulbs from the offsets which have grown up beside them. You’ll be able to relocate tiny, immature bulbs, however they gained’t bloom till they develop as giant because the mother and father.

Replant divided offsets and father or mother bulbs instantly with their necks above the soil line. Discard any which can be gentle or discolored.

From Seedlings/Transplanting

As talked about above, seedlings in the beginning of their third season are garden-ready. Plant nursery specimens the day of buy.

Discover a shady location with sandy loam soil. Set the seedlings or nursery vegetation on the identical depth as of their unique containers. Area them between 12 and 18 inches aside.

Our subsequent part discusses cultural necessities and plant care.

Find out how to Develop Forest Lilies

A location with gentle shade is right. As talked about, the soil must be sandy loam, with a pH within the 6.0 to eight.0 vary. Wonderful drainage is crucial to inhibit rotting.

A vertical photo of a forest lily under a shady tree with the pink flower just starting to open up.
Picture by Rotational, Wikimedia Commons, Public Area.

After a brief late-summer dormancy, new leaves seem within the fall. Start watering when the leaves sprout after which when the highest inch of soil is dry.

In case you are rising potted indoor bulbs, maintain them cool and darkish with minimal moisture. As soon as they sprout, place them in brilliant, oblique daylight and water as described above.

Fertilize twice a month in the course of the rising season, utilizing a liquid product diluted to half energy.

In case you are rising a small variety of vegetation and it’s handy, deadhead whole spent flower stalks earlier than the petal coloration utterly fades to redirect power into the bulbs for subsequent yr’s blooms.

This can be a frightening activity when you have a big, mass-planted expanse, so think about it elective.

A vertical photo of a forest lily flower fully open growing in a greenhouse.

Submit-bloom, let the leaves stay in place to feed the bulb.

In case you’re in a cooler space they could flip yellow, then brown, and fall off. Cease fertilizing and watering in the course of the late summer season to fall interval of dormancy.

Withhold water till you see the primary inexperienced shoots within the fall.

Rising Ideas

With consideration to their cultural necessities, forest lilies reward growers with lush foliage and placing blooms. Hold the next in thoughts to make sure success:

  • Develop outdoor in Zones 9 to 11 and indoors in different areas.
  • Present minimal gentle and moisture throughout germination.
  • Use sandy loam that drains effectively and has a reasonably impartial pH.
  • Sow in gentle shade outdoor and brilliant, oblique daylight indoors.
  • Keep away from overwatering to inhibit rotting.
  • Fertilize twice a month in the course of the rising season.

Now, let’s discuss upkeep.


Along with monitoring water wants and fertilizing in the course of the rising season, it’s helpful to skinny out overcrowded potted or in-ground vegetation each three to 4 years by dividing offsets and repotting or transplanting as wanted.

A horizontal photo of forest lilies growing in a greenhouse with long stalks of light pink blooms.

Contemplate deadheading spent flower stems, and in case your vegetation are deciduous, take away the dried brown foliage on the finish of the rising season.

The removing of plant particles not solely contributes to a tidy panorama, it additionally inhibits pests and pathogens.

Forest Lily Cultivars to Choose

Along with the straight species, cultivated styles of V. bracteata can be found for the house backyard.

Some cultivated varieties you could possibly find in native nurseries in Zones 9 to 11 are:

‘Cream,’ a uncommon magnificence adorned by creamy petals flushed with pink.

‘Fuchsia Pink,’ a cultivated pink specimen.

‘Lemon Flame,’ a greenish-yellow complement to pink-hued varieties.

Pastel Collection, a light-weight pink, peach, and yellow blossom assortment.

Managing Pests and Illness

V. bracteata shouldn’t be liable to pests or illnesses. Nevertheless, caterpillars could chew the flower buds, and extra moisture and poor drainage are an open invitation to slugs and snails.

As well as, bulbs uncovered to overly moist circumstances are liable to rotting.

Greatest Makes use of for Forest Lilies

Whether or not within the panorama or patio pots, the forest lily instructions consideration, brightening shade gardens with cheerful blooms.

Mass plant within the dappled gentle beneath deciduous bushes. Crops unfold to create a lush, naturalistic show.

Interplant with companions like Cape primrose, clivia, hellebore, and spurflower.

It’s important that companions have related cultural necessities. As talked about, the forest lily wants no water throughout dormancy and is prone to rotting.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Kind: Flowering bulb Flower/Foliage Shade: Shades of pink to greenish-yellow/inexperienced
Native to: Japanese Cape Province, South Africa Tolerance: Gentle frost
Hardiness (USDA Zone): September 11 Upkeep: Reasonable
Bloom Time: Winter to spring Soil Kind: Sandy loam
Publicity: Gentle shade Soil pH: 6.0-8.0
Spacing: 12-18 inches Soil Drainage: Effectively-draining
Planting Depth: 1/10 inch (seeds); identical depth as in unique container (bulbs/seedlings) Attracts: Hummingbirds
Peak: 18-24 inches Companion Planting: Cape primrose, clivia, hellebore, spurflower
Unfold: 12-18 inches Makes use of: Containers, mass planting, naturalized, shade gardens
Progress Fee: Quick Household: Asparagaceae
Water Wants: Reasonable Genus: Veltheimia
Widespread Pests and Illnesses: Caterpillars, slugs, snails; rot Species: Bacteata

Like Little Pink Palm Bushes

Underneath splendid rising circumstances, V. bracteata shouldn’t be liable to pests or pathogens and naturalizes readily, growing its footprint yearly and drawing the attention into shady areas of the panorama.

A horizontal photo of many forest lilies growing in the shade under a large tree.
Picture by Jon Richfield, Wikimedia Commons, through CC BY-SA.

Winter-to-spring-blooming forest lilies will make you smile as they bob within the breeze like little pink palm bushes in a dreamy oasis. Add V. bracteata to your backyard planner at this time!

Are you rising forest lilies? Tell us within the feedback part beneath.

And for extra details about rising flowers in your backyard, we advocate these guides subsequent:

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