How to Grow Cape Cowslip — Lachenalia

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Lachenalia–commonly called cape cowslip–is a tender bulbous perennial that bears showy, erect spikes or racemes of bell-shaped or tubular yellow or orange flowers. The flowers appear from autumn until spring; the plant is dormant in summer.

Lachenalia flowers are arranged in whorls. They often have tips that are contrasting color. Flowers are carried on leafless, often mottled stems. The leaves are basal.

Lachenalia is native to South Africa and grows outdoors where winters are mild. Lachenalis is a genus of about 90 species all of which grow from fleshy, tunicate bulbs. Lachenalia must be grown in well-drained soil; where the soil is not well-drained it should be planted in raised beds or containers.

Get to know Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip

  • Plant type: Bulbous perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Zone 9-11
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 9
  • Height and width: 12 to 16 inches tall and wide
  • Foliage: Arching, pinnate leaves brone in terminal clusters form a skirt near the crown
  • Flowers: Spikes of bowl-shaped, 3-petald, yellow or yellow-orange flowers are borne between leaves
  • Bloom time: Fall to spring
  • Uses: Border, rock garden
  • Common name: Cape cowslip
  • Botanical name: Lachenalia
  • Family name: Lilaceae
  • Origin: South Africa
Opal Flower - Lachenalia aloides
Opal Flower – Lachenalia aloides

Where to plant Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip

  • Plant Lachenalia outdoors in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Grow Lachenalia in full sun. Some shade in the middle of the day is best.
  • Lachenalia grows in fall and winter and is dormant in summer when its hot.

When to plant Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip

  • Set container-grown Lachenalia outdoors in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip

  • Space Lachenalia 12 to 16 inches apart.
  • Plant bulbs 3 inches deep; set them with the tips just under the surface.

How to water and feed Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip

  • Water Lachenalias moderately keeping the soil evenly moist.
  • Reduce watering as the leaves fade, then keep dry until fresh growth starts in autumn.
  • Fertilzier Lachenalias with an all-purpose, liquid fertilizer once a month.

Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip care

  • Grow Lachenalia in a raised bed if drainage is a problem.
  • Lachenalia can be grown in containers; move the containers to a dry, shady place in summer when Lachenalia is dormant.

Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip pests and diseases

  • Lachenalis is usually not bothered by pests or disease.

Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip propagation

  • Sow seed as soon as ripe or remove bulblets in summer or autumn and replant them.

Lachenalia – Cape Cowslip varieties to grow

  • Lachenalia aloides, cape cowslip, opal flower. Perennial with broadly lance-shaped leaves mid-green and spotted with purple; grows to 16 inches tall; racemes of pendent tubular yellow flowers in spring.
  • L. bulbifera, cape clowslip. Bulbous perennials grows to 12 inches tall; lance-shaped mid-green leaves spotted with brown-purple in winter or sprig; pendent, cylindircal red or orange flowers with green and purple tips.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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