Blood Lily – Haemanthus

Grown for their dramatic ball-shaped flower heads, Blood Lilies come in a variety of colours but the bright-red, blood-hued cultivars are most attractive.

The Blood Lily is one of the best known plants in the Haemanthus genus. Its other common names are African Blood Lily and Blood Flower.

Depending on the species a Blood Lily can be deciduous or evergreen, but they are all perennial bulbs. They normally have a single-stem form surrounded by base leaves with wavy edges. A short stem leads to the flower head which can be up to 20cm (8in) across.

Evergreen species can be grown all year round but deciduous varieties need to be rested in winter between flowering seasons.

H. katherinae has beautiful red summer flowers while H. albiflos flowers in autumn with white flowers with long yellow anthers.

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Although the flowers are lovely they do not last long. Backed by lots of leafy plants, the bright individual heads of Blood Lilies stand out well against the foliage. Placed alone in an uncluttered area in a conservatory or another warm room, the plant makes a great focal point.

Propagation

When repotting, you can use any bulb offsets to make new plants. Divide the offset bulbs which have been formed and repot each one on it own.

With H. albiflos, it is possible to propagate new plants from leaf cuttings. Place a piece of the succulent leaf in a plastic bag on a warm windowsill. After a few weeks you should be able to see tiny, new plants forming along the line of the cut. These can be planted into pots and grown on.

Growing from seed

Seeds from the plants can be planted but must be used as soon as they ripen, as they loose their viability very quickly. As soon as seedlings are large enough to handle, pot on into very small pots. Increase the size of pot only as they become potbound. Add sand to the compost for improved drainage.

Pests And Diseases

The leaves start to wither or go yellow before the end of the flowering season. This may be due to over-watering or exposure to direct sunlight. Treatment: Check that the soil does not stay wet and put the plant in a better position.

Mealy bugs sometimes hide in the bases of the leaves.

Treatment: Destroy them by swabbing with cotton wool soaked in methylated spirit.

Red spider mites can occur in conservatories which are very hot and dry.

Treatment: Liquid derris is effective. Reducing temperatures and increasing humidity by daily spraying with water can help.

PLANT CARE

High temperatures and lots of sunshine will be needed to make the best of this tropical plant. It grows well indoors or in the conservatory or greenhouse.

  • Potting: Only repot when potbound as the plant flowers better when its roots are restricted. Use a mixture of fibrous loam, peat or leaf-mould and soil-based compost or manure with sand to ensure good drainage.
  • Water as required in the flowering and growing season, but as soon as the leaves start to turn yellow and die, stop watering. When new growth appears in spring start watering again. Gradually increase watering but do not allow soil to stay wet, only moist.
  • Feeding: Feed with liquid fertilizer about every two weeks in the growing season.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The Blood Lily needs to have lots of light but can suffer if subjected to direct sunlight on a window that is exposed to full sun.
  • Temperature: As a tropical plant, it needs quite high temperatures. A minimum of about 13° to 16°C (55° to 60°F) is needed in summer; in winter cooler conditions are acceptable but never expose it to frost.

A spectacular and exotic perennial flowering bulb from Africa, the Blood Lily can be used to striking effect on the patio or indoors as a house plant.

The Blood Lily’s spiky flowers are surrounded by fleshy green leaves and crown the erect stems.

Buying Tips

  • Buy as bulbs for planting in spring or as potted plants. Specialist nurseries may sell them or get them through a mail order bulb company.
  • When buying a potted
  • plant, make sure the stem is firm and unblemished, and the leaves are strong and do not have yellowing areas. Buy bulbs from a reputable company.
  • Blood Lilies can be grown year after year if carefully tended and wintered.

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