Haemanthus and Scadoxus

Haemanthus and Scadoxus have striking flower heads that can resemble a shaving brush and vary in colour from red through pink to white. These South African bulbs thrive on a sunny windowsill and are trouble free to grow.

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Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. multiflorus

Quick facts

Common name Blood lily, shaving brush plant, Cape tulip
Botanical name Haemanthus and Scadoxus
Group Houseplant
Flowering time Summer to autumn
Planting time Re-pot occasionally in spring or early summer
Height and spread 20-30cm (8-1ft) by 15cm (6in)
Aspect Bright light 
Hardiness Tender minimum 10ºC (50ºF)
Difficulty Easy

Cultivation notes

The cultivation of Haemanthus and Scadoxus is similar and relatively straightforward. There is confusion over names of these plants as Scadoxus was originally called Haemanthus and many are still sold under this name. These plants can be easily grown by following these practical steps.

  • Although any good well-drained potting medium should be satisfactory, a loam-based compost such as John Innes No 2 with additional peat substitute such as coir or leaf mould and grit each about 20 percent by volume is ideal
  • Place in bright light but filter the light when the buds appear to prolong flowering (i.e. move away from the window a little)
  • Water freely when in growth and apply a dilute, balanced liquid houseplant fertiliser each month during the growing season (April until September)
  • Keep evergreen species moist when dormant but, with deciduous species like H. coccineus, withhold water when the leaves begin to yellow and resume watering when the new leaves appear
  • Plants can be grown in a cool conservatory or greenhouse with minimum temperature of 10ºC (50ºF)
  • Re-pot as growth begins, but they flower best when pot bound. The compost in containers tends to loose its structure over time so container maintenance should be carried out annually

Pruning and training

Pruning and training is generally not required, just remove the spent flowers unless you are collecting the seed.

Propagation

As with other bulbous plants, haemanthus can be propagated from offsets as well as from seed. Haemanthus readily produce offsets that can be detached, but this discourages flowering which is always better on congested plants. The offsets can then be potted up using the same growing media as for the parent plant. Plants may take three-to-four years to flower with H. albiflos.

  • The fleshy seeds should be sown soon after ripening as they are only viable for a short period
  • Sow into a deep seed tray filled with well-drained, sandy compost 
  • Press seeds lightly into the surface of the compost so the top of the seed is showing
  • Maintain at 16-18ºC (61-64ºF)
  • Water well initially and then only when the leaves appear. Take care not to over water and make the soil soggy
  • Young plants can be left in the seed trays for several years before potting up
  • With H. coccineus, stop watering when the leaves begin to yellow, and only resume once the leaves reappear

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