Corn Lilies- Ixia hybrids

Corn Lilies produce brilliantly coloured flowers, ranging in colour from deep crimson to fiery orange. They are simple to grow and are ideal if you want indoor colour during late spring and early summer.

Corn Lilies originated in southern Africa and they are members of the Iris family, the Iridaceae. They grow from corms, the botanical term for underground stems that sprout roots.

The lxia hybrids bloom in late spring over a period of several weeks. The six-petalled flowers grow on shapely, wiry stems. Lxia flowers are often confused with Freesias but they do not have such a heady scent. The leaves are narrow and sword-shaped and about the same height as the flowering stems.

Very similar plants are Anomatheca, Sparaxis and Tritonia.Corn Lilies- Ixia hybrids

Anomatheca has narrow, upright leaves that grow to a height of about 20cm (8in). There are several colourful hybrids, most of which bear red flowers, although you can find white, blue and green flower varieties. The flowers are about 2.5cm (1 in) across and have little fragrance.

Sparaxis leaves can grow to a height of 45cm (18in) and the flowers come in a range of colours, including orange, red, white, yellow and maroon. The flowers are bi-coloured, the centres usually being yellow.

Tritonia has a number of colourful hybrids, ranging in colour from orange, through to pink and white.


Corn Lily plants can be propagated from the offsets which appear as miniature plants at the bases of main stems.

1 If you notice an offset developing at the base of a stem, leave it in place until it is about a quarter of the size of the main plant.

2 When the offset has reached a manageable size, cut it away from the stem using a sharp knife. If at all possible, preserve any roots that may be attached to the offset.

3 Pot the offset in fresh, peat-based compost and water it sparingly. When it takes root, treat the offset as an ordinary plant. After the leaves have died down, stop watering and keep the plant in a dry, frost-free place over the winter. In the early spring, repot the young corm 5cm (2in) deep in new compost and when growth becomes evident, start watering.

The offset may not produce flowers until the following year.

Plant Problems

Corn Lilies are extremely healthy plants and are seldom troubled by pests.

Patches of white, fluffy fungus growth sometimes appear on corms during the winter. These are a sign of grey mould infection which thrives in humid conditions.

Treatment: Wipe away mouldy deposits and cut off affected parts. Spray the corm with a fungicide and increase ventilation in the storage area.


These plants are easy to grow and care for. They develop best if kept on a cool, but bright, windowsill during the growing and flowering periods in the spring.

  • Potting: Corn Lilies and related plants grow well in a peat-based compost that drains freely. Repot the corms each year in the late autumn for flowering the following spring.
  • Water the plants freely as soon as you notice the first signs of growth in the late winter or early spring. The compost must be kept moist but not saturated. When the foliage starts to die back, cease watering and put the corms in a cool, dry and sunny spot.
  • Feeding: Feed at fortnightly intervals during the growing period.


  • Light: Give bright light. When new shoots appear, move to the flowering position. After flowering, keep in a cool, sunny and dry place until the foliage dies.
  • Temperature: During the winter keep the dormant corms at a temperature of around 13°C (55°F). While the plants are flowering, keep the temperature at a steady 15°C (60°F).

When to buy

  • It is best to buy corms in the autumn for immediate planting, although many garden centres stock corms throughout the year.
  • The corms should be dry and firm to the touch. Look for signs of mould which indicates that the corms have been stored in damp conditions.
  • Provided they are stored correctly during the dormant period, Corn Lilies can flower year after year.

The African Corn lilies, in appearance are a cross somewhere between a montbretia and a freesia and possessing the qualities of both. In sheltered districts they may be planted in beds during September, covered with bracken to keep out winter frosts and they will bloom during June, the long graceful stems making them a most suitable cut flower. Or they may be wintered in a cold frame, planting in September and withholding water in the same way as for freesias until spring growth commences. Then, they may be watered and brought into bloom during May. Again, they may be planted in deep boxes, wintered in a cold frame and moved to a cool greenhouse during February when they will commence to bloom during April.

Wherever they are planted they enjoy best a light, sandy soil, containing no manure but a little humus in the form of peat. They are also great lime lovers and should be given ample supplies of lime rubble.

The corms should be planted 4 in. deep and 4 in. apart in a sunny position if grown in the open. I have grown them to perfection in narrow beds under a high wall facing due south in Cornwall and in a similar position in Worcester, but here they were covered with Dutch lights from late October until early April, the lights being reared against the wall. This not only kept out frost, but excessive moisture too.

Marketing and cutting ixias calls for some judgement for if cut before the blooms open they may never open, and those that may have opened too far may close up and not recover if remaining too long out of water. It is for this reason that the ixia is not more widely grown for market.


  • Ixia czurea. Bears its blooms of pure sky-blue during June and blooms well in the open in a sandy soil.
  • I. bucepbalus. An excellent cut-flower species, bearing its vivid rose-coloured flowers on 2-ft. Stems.
  • I. gigantea alba. Bears a striking bloom of purest white, which carries a delicious perfume.
  • I. lutea. A lovely species producing its rich yellow star-like flowers on long sprays.
  • I. rosea plena. Produces its almost double flowers of rich pink on I 5-in. stems.
  • I. scariosa. A lovely cut flower for late June, the delightful pale lilac blooms being carried on 8-in. stems.
  • I. viridifiora. This is included, though difficult to obtain, as it is one of the most striking flowers in cultivation. It is easy and bears in profusion, flowers of vivid green, flushed deep blue and purple.
  • I. Golden Drop. A most striking hybrid producing a bloom of deep yellow with an unusual black eye.
  • I. Vulcan. A hybrid, bearing richly coloured bloom of scarlet, flushed orange.


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