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Hesperantha - Growing Guide

Caring for Hesperantha – Kaffir Lily

(Formerly Known As Schizostylis)

This is another of those botanical name changes which confuses and readily annoys our customers. Even the 2008 RHS Garden Encyclopaedia still lists schizostylis as exactly that genus!

Kaffir lilies were once grown much more widely in the rich soils around Penzance in Cornwall both as a cut flower and as part of the much more widespread cultivation of daffodils on farms from the late 19th century.

These plants are virtually evergreen and, although their leaves will blacken in cold winds, they suffer no ill effects. They are tough enough to withstand -10°C despite originating from damp water meadows and stream banks in South Africa. As such they have become very popular in UK gardens for their ability to brighten up autumn which is when they flower most fully. That is not to say that you may not find the odd early flower in July or August.

All forms of Schizostylis coccinea are vigorous clump forming plants and thus easily divided and split into separate new clumps in spring. The flowers grow to about 18-24in or about double the height of their small gladioli like leaves. There is quite a range of flower colours from white to light pink and salmon-red to red in different named varieties. We enjoy growing the different varieties together and they look effective in rows exactly as they were once field grown in Cornwall.

Slugs and snails generally leave kaffir lilies alone. Seed can be germinated in warm conditions in a seed tray in your greenhouse but, if you grow more than one coloured form in your garden, you will not produce plants with a uniform colour.

Schizostylis complement other autumn flowering bulbous plants like nerine and Amaryllis belladonna.

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