Bowiea volubilis, commonly known as Climbing Onion, is not related to onions or other alliums but is more closely aligned with lilies. It is not an edible plant and can be described as an interesting but pretty specimen of flora. It is a succulent plant without any leaves. The plant grows from a bulb, often outside the soil.
Climbing Onion is native to Africa, where the soil is poor, moisture is minimal, and heat is severe. However, it grows well in most home interiors, provided there is no excessive humidity. The plant itself is a curiosity, with its surface growing bulb and green starry flowers.
This plant grows out of a bulb. It has no obvious leaves because the onion-like bulb comprises compressed leaf structures. As with any bulb, the onion houses the embryo and holds carbohydrates for continued plant growth.
In its native habitat, Climbing Onion may grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) across but usually only achieve 4 inches (10 cm) in captivity. It produces offsets or smaller bulbs as the plant matures, divided away from the parent, to produce new plants. Slender stems sprout from the bulbs and branch out into feathery flower stalks. Numerous tiny starry, six-pointed, white to green flowers appear along the stems.
The best medium for growing Climbing Onion is a gritty, well-draining soil mixture. If you wish to make your own mixture, combine half potting soil and half sand. Choose a pot with drainage holes, as excess moisture can cause the bulb to rot.
Climbing Onion likes to be in a crowded pot, so select one barely larger than the bulb. Place the container in full but sheltered sun or partial shade. Excess heat will cause the bulb to callus over and become dormant, while even consistent warmth and moderate moisture will allow the plant to grow all year.
Overwatering is a major concern with this plant. Best growth is achieved with moderate and consistent moisture, but never let the plant sit in water and allow the soil to dry out between watering. Stop watering completely when the stalks dry out after blooming in late summer. At this point, you can cut off the spent stems when they begin to dry out and brown. Resume watering when the bulb re-sprouts, generally in the fall.
In summer, you can move the plant to a sheltered area outside as long as it is kept above 50 °F (10 °C). Supplemental feeding is not a necessary part of climbing onion care. Provide the airy green stems with a support structure, or simply allow them to tangle around themselves.
Divide the offsets when they are half the parent's size and pot them in the same soil mixture.
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