One of three subspecies of Eucomis autumnalis, Eucomis autumnalis ssp. autumnalis is a magnificent plant with a particularly handsome inflorescence of white flowers held aloft on a close-clustering raceme that is tall and slender and crowned with a coiffure of green leaf-bracts that is the unique characteristic of the genus Eucomis. It is an elegant plant, with an air of sophistication: exotic yet understated. Whereas Eucomis bicolor, with its flamboyant look-at-me jungle markings, tends to be more wildchild, more Kings Road; Eucomis autumnalis has an easy confidence, as if successfully pulling it off at Ascot on Ladies day; cool and somewhat detached. The star-like flowers - when looked at closely - have small green markings near the throat and when fertilised, the entire flower turns from pale white to pale green. The foliage is a soft green, a luxuriant rosette of fleshy soft-textured leaves.
It is native to South Africa where it is found in the Eastern Cape and Northern Province and to Zimbabwe and Malawi occuring in open grassland, forest margins and mountain slopes.
For such a showy and exotic plant Eucomis autumnalis is ridiculously easy in cultivation. During the growing season, ensure it is well watered and feed but once the leaves start to die back in autumn keep it dry. It is often easier to do this by lifting the bulbs and storing them over winter. If you plan to keep them outdoors through the winter, plant deep, with grit and sand added to the substrate and mulch liberally in autumn. It can also be a very effective container plant.
Eucomis flowers cut well for ornamental use and will keep for at least a week in water.
|Synonyms||Eucomis undulata, Fritillaria autumnalis|
|Geographical Origin||South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe on mountain slopes, grassland and forest margins|
|Cultivation||Full sun. Well-drained soil. Keep dry and mulch during dormancy|
|Hardiness||Hardy if planted deep and kept dry in winter. It is often easier to lift the bulbs and store them over winter|
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