How to Grow Veltheimia Plants

Guide to Growing Winter veltheimia, Forest lily, and Sand onion

Veltheimia are hardy bulbs that reach from 30 to 45 cm in height.

They bloom at the start of spring when they carry drooping clusters of tubular shaped flowers, these are usually red or yellow.

They are a native of southern Africa, and so perform best in zones 8 to 10.

Veltheimia bracteata
Veltheimia bracteata by Derek Keats.

Veltheimia are Asparagaceae, so closely related to Scilla, Asparagus vegetables, Brimeura, Yucca plants, Solomons seal, and Chionodoxa.

Quick Veltheimia Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Winter veltheimia, Forest lily, Sand onion, Sand lily, Sandui, Red hot poker, Elephant's eye.
  • Life Cycle: Half hardy bulb.
  • Height: 12 to 18 inches (30—45 cm).
  • Native: South Africa.
  • Growing Region: Zones 8 to 10. Also grown as an annual in cooler regions.
  • Flowers: Species dependent: Veltheimia bracteata in the spring, Veltheimia capensis in autumn and winter.
  • Flower Details: Red, yellow, pink. Tubular clusters.
  • Foliage: Evergreen in some areas, loses leaves in the summer in others. Narrowly lanceolate. Glossy. Thick. Bluish green or pale to deep green leaves.
  • Grow Outside:
    Bulbs: Plant just below the surface in early autumn, with the top third remaining above the ground. Space at 12 inches (30 cm) and do not disturb.
    Seeds: Cover. Autumn. Takes about three years for seed grown Veltheima plants to bloom.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: one to three months. Temperature: ~60°F (15°C), provide a temperature swing. Consider germinating on a wet paper towel. Ten weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors well after the last frost when temperatures will not drop below 50°F (10°C).
  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight (for best results) or light shade. Good drainage. Most soils but will perform best in humus-rich, loamy soil. Apply liquid fertilizer twice a month through the growing season from spring to early summer. Very light watering in the summer. Pot bulbs and bring indoors for the winter in colder areas. Propagate: from offsets in the spring, easy to grow from seed, or plant leaves into a sand/soil mix in late spring/early summer. Protect from slugs and snails.
  • Miscellaneous: Veltheimia capensis was traditionally used as a purgative by the natives of South Africa.

How to Grow Veltheimia

For quickest results grow Veltheimia from bulbs as seed grown plants will take about three or four years to flower. Bulbs should be buried two thirds deep in the autumn (keep the top third out of the soil).

Space at about 30 cm apart and locate in a sunny or partially shaded part of the garden. Ideally the soil that Veltheimia plants grow in will be acidic and have good drainage.

If growing from seed either sow outdoors in the autumn, or start off indoor at the start of winter; sow the seeds and then lightly cover. If growing indoors then germination should take from one to three months at a temperature of 12 to 18 degrees centigrade. Transplant seedlings into the garden in mid spring.

Caring for Veltheimia

Although Veltheimia takes a little looking after it is fairly easy work. They require a liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks from spring until the end of the growing season (stop in summer). If you live in a very cold area then bring Veltheimia indoors for the winter, they will not tolerate extremely cold temperatures.

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