How to Grow Schizostylis Plants

Guide to Growing Crimson flag Lily and River Lily

Schizostylis plants are hardy perennials that reach about 60 cm (24 inches) in height.

They bloom from the end of summer through autumn (they make a great plant to bring color to your Fall garden). Plants carry cup shaped flowers of red or pink. These are are carried on spikes.

Hesperantha coccinea
Hesperantha coccinea (Crimson flag lily), picture by Megan Hansen; CC.

Although they are still commonly known as Kaffir Lily in many parts of the world this name is rightfully becoming less used. This is because the word Kaffir is used as a derogatory term for black people in South Africa. We recommend that you refer to the plant as the Crimson Flag Lily or the River Lily when you discuss it to help encourage the use of this friendlier plant name.

Kaffir Lily
Schizostylis by Wallygrom.

Note this genus, with the sole member Schizostylis coccinea, has been reclassified into the 79 strong Hesperantha genus. It is thus also known as Hesperantha coccinea. The use of Schizostylis is still in common use amongst gardener's.

Commonly Grown Schizostylis / Hesperantha Cultivars

Schizostylis coccinea 'alba'

Schizostylis coccinea alba
Schizostylis coccinea cultivar 'Alba' photograph by Esther Westerveld; CC.

Hesperantha coccinea 'Cindy Towe'

Hesperantha coccinea Cindy Towe
Hesperantha coccinea Cultivar 'Cindy Towe' photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.

Schizostylis Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Crimson flag lily.
  • Syn: Hesperantha.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 24 to 30 inches (60—75 cm).
  • Native: South Africa.
  • Growing Region: Zones 8 to 10. UK H4 - hardy to –10°C (14°F)
  • Garden Use: Beds, Borders, Containers, Alongside water features.
  • Flowers: Late summer and autumn.
  • Flower Details: Crimson red, pink (Schizostylis coccinea has a white cultivar ‘alba’ available. Cup-shaped. Yellow style.
  • Foliage: Semi-evergreen. Linear sword-shaped. Erect.

  • Plant Outside:
    Seeds: Cover. Before the last spring frost.
    Tuber: 2 inches (5 cm). Spring. Provide a winter mulch to protect the tubers during the first growing season.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: one to three months. Temperature: 55 to 60°F (13—16°C). Two and a half months in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost. Space at 9 to 12 inches (23—30 cm).
  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight or partial shade. Good drainage. Rich, moist soil. Neutral to acidic soil pH. Spring feed. Spring mulch. Couple of further feeds while growing. Divide every three years to maintain vigor. Protect from strong winds. Propagate: by dividing at the start of spring (leave four or five eyes).
  • Family: Iridaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Iris, flag
  • Miscellaneous: Synonymous with Hesperantha. Schizostylis is Latin for ‘divided style’.
  • How to Grow Crimson Flag Lily and other Schizostylis

    Schizostylis plants can be grown from tubers or seeds. Tubers should be buried at about 5 cm ( 2 inches) deep in the spring.

    Seed should be sown before the last frost of spring, and lightly covered with topspoil.

    They can grow in either sunny or partially shaded conditions and requires an area of the garden that has good drainage.

    Ideally the soil that the lily grows in will be rich, moist and have a PH that is neutral to slightly acidic.

    Schizostylis coccinea
    Schizostylis coccinea (River Lily), photograph by peganum; CC.

    If you plan to start off indoors then start about two or three months in advance (they need to be transplanted just after the last frost of spring).

    It should take from one to three months for seeds to germinate at a temperature of 12 to 15 degrees centigrade (54 to 59°F). Once ready, transplant outdoors at about 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 inches apart.

    River Lily
    River Lily (Crimson flag lily), Image by Peter Stevens; CC.

    Caring for Crimson Flag Lily and River Lily

    Crimson flag lily and other Schizostylis take a little looking after. It is best to grow them in an area that does not receive much wind.

    If growing from tuber, then supply a mulch in the first winter to protect the plant from cold.

    In all cases supply a mulch in spring to help keep the soil cool. The lilies should ideally be fed in the spring, and a further two times whilst growing.

    Schizostylis plants likes to grow in a moist soil, so keep well watered in dry spells. To maintain vigorous growth divide the plant every three years.

    If you require more plants then propagate by division in the spring ensuring to leave five eyes.

    I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Schizostylis plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Tritonia, Helictotrichon sempervirens, Iris, and Crocosmia plants.