October is a month festooned by spiders' webs and in this mellowest time of year the garden can seem suspended between the seasons. A typical day can start as winter; proceed to a summer's afternoon before slipping into a cool autumn evening. These conditions suit Schizostylis beautifully. The lily-like flowers start the day weighed down by dewdrops before opening to face the midday sun.
These autumn flowering perennials are valued in gardens for their late flowering, in August to November they can give your garden as much colour in the autumn as in the height of summer and in areas with a low risk of frost, will bloom until late-December
Kaffir Lilies have a grace all of their own, with lovely dwarf gladioli like flower stalks and individual blossoms that resembles those of a freesia, they are among the loveliest of the autumn flowers. The satiny globes, which open wide even in wintry sunshine range in colour from pure white to deep scarlet and copper-red.
Given a few years will create a stunning display in the garden when in flower. They are excellent garden plants and a most useful cut flower which lasts well in a vase.
Sowing: Sow in late winter/late spring or in late summer/autumn.
Seed should be sown onto good seed starting compost. Sow the seed on the surface and cover lightly with a little coarse clean gravel. Make sure that there is enough space between each seed so that the seedlings can grow for their first year without transplanting. Germinate around 15°C (59°F). Seeds will take up to three months to germinate and will look a little like grass when they emerge, so be sure not to accidentally weed them out.
Keep well watered at all times. After their first year, plants may be planted out in your garden in moderately fertile soil with good moisture content in full sun.
Schizostylis need humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil to perform well; they also need a sunny position so they can sparkle until the frosts arrive. It is a thirsty plant, flourishing beside streams and sometimes in shallow water, although it dislikes winter paddling,
If your soil is free-draining, add lots of organic matter before planting. Those on heavy clay will need to add lots of grit and put them in a sheltered position. In dry gardens it is worth sinking a sheet of plastic 30cm (12in) deep to act as a sump in dry soil. Puncture it here and there with a garden fork to prevent stagnation. New planting will look odd at first but soon settles down. Water them well during the summer and mulch after heavy rain to preserve moisture.
Once established they require only the minimum of care, but in very cold winters it is worth covering plants with a deep mulch of well-rotted compost or straw in winter. Hardy to around -10°C (14°F), in very cold areas protect the rhizomes from frost from January onwards with cloches, horticultural fleece or a thick mulch of straw or compost. In cold areas, this adaptable plant can also be treated like an agapanthus and potted up and then bedded out in summer.
Both flowers and leaves deteriorate if plants are left in one place for a long time. To maintain vigorous growth, lift and divide the rhizomes from mid- to late-spring every two to three years. Each clump should have about six leaf shoots and should be replanted about 20 to 30cm apart and 5cm deep in well-prepared soil. Use fresh compost and cover the roots with several inches of soil.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds or Container Plants.
Schizostylis belongs to the Iridaceae, the Iris family. It is a native from East Cape Province, South Africa to Zimbabwe. The flora is especially rich because the area escaped glaciation and the Cape region can boast 9,000 species in contrast to Britain's 1,500.
The genus comprises 65 species which are distributed through both the summer and winter rainfall areas of South Africa. They grow naturally in wetter parts on the eastern side of the Cape, in stream beds and cliff edges, where summers are warm and wet and winters cold and dry.
In South Africa, schizostylis keeps its linear grass-green leaves throughout the year but in our gardens schizostylis dies back and then reappears in late spring.
Until about 2002 Schizostylis was a separate genus, but Schizostylis was a monotypic genus and cytological examination by Dr. Peter Goldblatt proved it should be included with Hesperantha.
It has been reclassified into the genus Hesperantha and in horticultural circles, Hesperantha coccinea is the correct name for this species, the name Schizostylis has been retained for horticultural purposes.
Schizostylis cultivars all derive from a single species, Schizostylis coccinea. It was named by Backhouse and Harvey and is featured in Curtis' Botanical Magazine 5422 in 1864.
In South Africa they are commonly known as 'Kaffir Lily' or the 'Scarlet River Lily' for it grows along stream sides. It is closely related to Hesperantha which also occurs in this area. The name Hesperantha means ‘evening flower’
The name Schizostylis means 'divided columns' or styles. Each flower has three prominent styles and three stamens, hence their name meaning literally 'split styles'.
The specific epithet coccinea is derived from the Latin word meaning 'deep red' and refers to the scarlet red colour of the species. (The way to remember is to think of the cochineal beetle, famous for giving us a red dye)
In Africa the Sesotho name is 'Khahla e nyenyane' or 'Khahlana' and the Afrikaans name is 'Rooirivierlelie'.
Schizostylis is sometimes known in cultivation as "Kaffir Lily"; this name may be best avoided as "Kaffir" is considered an offensive ethnic slur in Africa. Although to many outside of Africa, there is no such connotation and "Kaffir" means something that is native to Africa.
The name is so well-known exclusively as the name of this beloved flower that there's no chance in the foreseeable future that nurseries will replace it, with politically correct intent, to some inadequate alternative such as the too-generic sounding "River Lily". The rather more felicitous and precise "Crimson River Lily" only works for some varieties that approach the wildflower in colour, and would not work for the numerous additional colours in cultivation. So Kaffir Lily it is, and Kaffir Lily it is apt to remain.
The word Kaffir is occasionally spelt ‘Kafir”. It is also denoted in species names as "caffra" , for example Erythrina caffra and Erica caffra . In the book "South African Shrubs and Trees for the Garden", under the section "Meanings of some Species names", the meaning of "caffra" is given as "from South Africa"
Still, anyone visiting South Africa on vacation might like to know it isn't a word always heard in a friendly manner, and one shouldn't get all excited and shout out "Look! Kaffir lilies!" as it could sound terribly rude.
While in Africa you might try calling it Khahlana as would Bantu peoples or Roorivierlelie as might polite Afrikaaners or just River Lily, just don't expect many to know what you meant outside of Africa.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50mg Average Seed Count 60 Seeds Family Iridaceae Genus Schizostylis Species coccinea Common Name Recently reclassified into the genus Hesperantha.
Also known as Kaffir Lily,
Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to around -10°C (14°F) Flowers Mixed Colours - Pure white to deep scarlet. Natural Flower Time August to November Foliage Strap-like Foliage Height 180 to 240cm tall, (6 to 8ft) - Fast growing Position Full Sun Soil Fertile, moist soil Time to Sow Sow in late winter/late spring or in late summer/autumn. Germination Up to 90 days at 15°C (59°F).