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Growing Indigenous Bulbs

Published on July 8th 2020
A close up of a flower
We have the most incredible diversity of indigenous bulbs in South Africa with over 2000 indigenous species.
Look a bit more closely now and you might just spot some Lachenalia, Veltheimia, or Kniphofia flowering. Not all of the species are suited for home gardeners, but there is a big selection that can be cultivated in home gardens, providing lots of joy and beauty in all seasons. Read further for a bit more information on indigenous bulbs species we have in South Africa and how you can successfully grow them in your garden or in a pot.

When to plant your bulbs

If you plan a bit ahead and also look at planting a few different species of bulbs, you can have flowering bulbs all year long in your garden. Have a look below for when to plant bulbs for the different seasons.
Spring flowering bulbs should be planted in April and May.


Ornithogalum thyrsoides

Paintbrush Lily

Scadoxus puniceus

Baboon root

Babiana spp.


Sparaxis spp.

Corn Lily

Ixia spp.

Blazing star

Tritonia spp.

Summer flowering bulbs should be planted in Spring.
Autumn flowering bulbs should be planted in February and March.
Winter flowering bulbs should be planted in early autumn.

Top tips

There are a few general guidelines for bulbs and growing them successfully. They require more preparation but less maintenance and care if one could generalise. Have a look below for a few of our top tips
  • Soil is a very important part of the success of bulbs. Ensure that your bulbs are planted in a well-drained soil mixture that has ample amounts of humus added to it.
  • A general rule for the depth of planting your bulb is 3 times the height of the actual bulb and nothing deeper than that. Most bulbs are planted with the point to the top and the flat end to the bottom. (There are a few odd cases where this is not the rule.)
  • In the growing season of your bulbs, water them at least twice a week.
  • Keep an eye on pests like slugs, snails, lily borer, leaf miners, hawk moth, and moles. Just to name a few!
  • Make sure you know which rainfall region your bulbs naturally occur in ie. winter or summer rainfall. If you do decide to plant summer rainfall bulbs in pots in a winter rainfall area, remember to move the pots to a sheltered area when the rain comes.

How to store your bulbs

Most bulbs have a dormant time when leaves completely die back and the bulb remains below the ground. It would be ideal to keep your bulbs in the soil until the next growing season but you can always remove them if you prefer it this way. It is vital to store your bulbs in a cool and dry place until you plant them again.
Top Tip:
If you leave your bulbs in the ground, mark the area with a coloured stick or stone to ensure you don’t dig there by mistake and damage your bulbs.
Eucomis vandermerwei

Dealing with frost

Summer growing bulbs that are dormant in winter are frost hardy. Winter growing bulbs should be protected from frost and most evergreen bulbs are semi-hardy.
Frost free or light frost areas:
Summer flowers
Autumn flowers
Winter flowers
Spring flowers
High frost areas
Kniphofias for flowers the whole year whilst Nerine bowdenii will provide beautiful flowers in autumn. Dierama spp and Rhodohypoxis baurii will put a show in Spring and summer and Eucomis autumnalis will provide beautiful flowers in summer.
Next time you visit your nearest garden centre, remember to make a turn at the bulbs section, you might just be surprised at the success you can have with our beautiful selection of indigenous bulbs.

Share your indigenous bulbs, flowering in your winter garden with us by using the hashtag #indigenousbulbs!

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