SPREKEUA FORMOSISSIMA (Aztec lily, Jacobean lily)

10 deg C/50 deg F

This is a Mexican bulbous plant related to hippeastrums. It is notable for its remarkable flowers of rather orchid-like structure, deep blood-red in colour. The flowering time is often erratic and may be from spring to summer. Often leaves come before the flowers or at the same time, and these are unusually sparse and narrowly strap-shaped. The flower is about 10cm (4in) across and the structure is rather like that of a fleur-de-lis. The bulbs should be potted from February to March. When buying them, choose bulbs of good size, and firm when gently pressed. Small bulbs may not be of flowering size. Pot with the nose of the bulb well protruding from the compost, which can be John Innes or peat-based. Set one bulb to each 13cm (5 in.) pot. They can, of course, be grouped in larger pots if desired. After potting, give no water at first, then very little until the foliage begins to form. With the production of leaves watering can be increased accordingly, to compensate for the increased transpiration.

During the leaf stage the bulb can be fed, although if a nourishing potting compost has been used, such as John Innes No. 2. this need not be too generous. How the bulb is looked after at this stage determines its performance the next season. In autumn the pots should be gradually allowed to go quite dry and the bulbs stored dry for the winter. There is no need to repot bulbs that are kept, but they will need more feeding. Over-watering is liable to lead to rotting of the bulbs. This may also occur if they are damp in winter or stored at low temperatures. Sometimes offsets form around the bulbs and these can be removed for propagation.

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