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How to Grow and Care for a Namaqua Century Plant (Boophone haemanthoides)

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Boophone haemanthoides, commonly known as Namaqua Century Plan, is a distinctive species whose unique look and growth habit are appreciated by lovers of unusual plants. It is a primitive-looking plant with most of its layered bulb growing above ground, like an onion-like caudex. Its wavy, blue grey, strap-like leaves are arranged in a spreading fan, emerging from the top of its bulb. Some of the largest bulbs can be more than 100 years old.

Once Namaqua Century Plant reaches flowering size, in early to mid summer a brush-like flower head emerges cream or light yellow colored, then becoming dull pink with age. Leaves develop after flowering and remain until the following summer, when the plant goes dormant until flowering again.

Namaqua Century Plant grows in winter rainfall areas of Namaqualand and the Western Karoo, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and Namibia. In cultivation, flowering can be very erratic, and the main display feature of these plants lies in their ornamental leaf fans. Individual flowers are short-lived, lasting only a few days, and the flower head lasts no more than 7 days. It is occasionally used as a subject for large containers, rock gardens and conservatory displays by specialist bulb growers.

Photo via flickr.com

Growing Conditions and General Care

Namaqua Century Plant is a striking plant for a large pot, and also makes a handsome feature planted in bold groups in rock garden pockets. It is important to note that the bulbs are highly sensitive to excess moisture during the winter growing period, and require a completely dry summer period when they are dormant.

This plants do not survive for long outdoors when planted in high rainfall areas. They require high light intensity to grow well, preferring full sun for as much of the day as possible. A pot at least 16 inches (40 cm) deep is needed for a mature bulb. When displayed as a pot subject, it performs well when placed on a sunny patio.

Grow the bulbs in a sandy, well-drained soil mixture, such as equal parts of washed industrial sand and river sand. When planting Namaqua Century Plant, make sure that at least 2/3 of the bulb is above ground level.

Water the plant well once in late fall and wait for the leaves to appear. Thereafter, provide a good soaking once per month. As soon as the leaves start to turn yellow in late spring, withhold watering and keep the bulbs as dry as possible in summer.

Propagation

Namaqua Century Plant is propagated mainly by by seed, as offsets rarely, if ever, form in cultivation.

Source: pza.sanbi.org

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