Albuca is an eye-catching bulbous plant that is native to northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. These plants all have similar, simple, and elegant flowers but can grow extremely varied foliage forms depending upon the species. The leaves and flowers are covered in downy hairs that emit a pleasant scent when touched.
Albuca was first collected in the 1800s, and today there are 150 recognized species. Not all of these are in cultivation, but the species made especially appealing and unique plants for the summer garden. Most have white, green, or yellow drooping or erect flowers with three petals.
In their native South America, Albuca blooms in late winter to early spring. Growing Albuca usually starts with seeds or bulbs. Seeds can take three years to produce flowers.
Albucas are perennials, but they should be treated as annuals or dug up and overwintered indoors in cold regions. The biggest problems when growing Albucas are rotten bulbs from excess wet and frost damage.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Albucas require sandy, loose soil in full to partial sun to produce their characteristic blooms. The plants can grow 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) tall with a slightly smaller width. Good cultivation encourages the removal of the bulb from the outdoors in zones with frost. They are not frost-hardy, and cold temperatures can damage the bulb.
These plants look particularly attractive in rock gardens, slopes, and even containers. The biggest requirement for Albuca care is superior drainage. The regions to which they are native are not known for consistent moisture, which means it is drought tolerant once established. Constant watering at planting is necessary to mimic the rainy season, but after that, light watering is all that is necessary when caring for Albuca.
Fertilize the plants annually at installation and early spring with a portion of good all-purpose bulb food. Cut back spent foliage after it yellows and begins to wilt.
The best way to propagate is from offsets, divided away from the parent plant and separately planted. Not all Albuca produce offsets, so you may need to rely upon seeds to get more of these exciting plants.
Fresh seeds generally germinate a week after sowing. They should be sown at the same time the parent plant is actively resprouting. It needs to be planted fairly quickly, as seeds have a viability period of only about six months. Once planted, keep seedlings moderately moist in medium light and a warm area. In about three years, you can look forward to another plant that may be different from the parent plant, as these seeds tend to hybridize easily.