Eucomis pallidiflora ssp. pole-evansii is found in the wild in Mpumalanga province in South Africa and parts of Western Swaziland. It is the largest of the Eucomis and is an enormous plant with huge sword-like bright-green leaves that are deeply-channelled at the base and stretch out from the centre of the plant like a lush botanical explosion reaching up to 1m in height. Even if it didn't flower at all it would still be a highly desirable plant for its giant jungly foliage but together with the towering racemes of white flowers it constitutes one of those 'must-have' exotic plants.
Usually sold as Eucomis pole-evansii in the UK, it is now acknowledged as a giant subspecies of Eucomis pallidiflora after the important taxonomic work done by William Reynake was finally recognised in 2004. The main differences to Eucomis pallidiflora ssp. pallidiflora - apart from the considerably overall larger size - is in the flowers and flowering stem. The height to the top of the flower stalk in ssp pole-evansii can reach as high as 2m and the flowers are loosely arranged on the stem whereas in ssp. pallidiflora the overall height of the stem including the flower stalk seldom reaches more than 80cm and the flowers are more densely packed.
It is a relatively easy plant to grow, benefiting like all Eucomis from a well-drained soil to which has been added plenty of sharp sand, grit and shingle. Because of its massive size it can be somewhat accident-prone in the wind and unless it is in a naturally sheltered spot it is usually best to stake the flowers. Even the plant itself with its large foliage can be blown around a bit and this is often the result of that age-old conundrum of whether to leave it in the ground over winter or dig the bulbs up in late autumn. Dug-up and kept dry over winter ensures their survival but tends to mean the plant doesn't establish a large-enough root structure to support its ever-increasing size. If left in the ground, there are two things to remember: the bulbs really don't like being wet while they are dormant so there is a real need to make the substrate as free-draining as possible (more sand !!) ... and they will also need a thick winter mulch for extra warmth. Keeping this species in pots and bringing them into the glasshouse is only a solution for so long as even a 20 litre pot will soon become outgrown. A sheltered wind-protected south-facing corner, exceptionally good drainage and a cozy winter mulch is the long-term solution.
Eucomis pallidiflora ssp. pole-evansii is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying plant to grow and will amaze you each year with its size and growth, the large bulbs multiplying and eventually forming a large clump.
Essential exotica !
|Geographical Origin||South Africa and Swaziland|
|Cultivation||Full sun in a warm sheltered aspect. Very well-drained soil. Stake flower-stems if necessary|
|Hardiness||Borderline in the frozen north, it can be left in the ground in warmer locations but must have perfect drainage, sheltered position and a warm mulch in the winter. Otherwise best to lift the bulbs and overwinter in a cool dry room|
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