VELTHEIMIAS are all bulbous plants with attractive seasonal foliage and an interesting flower spike. The large, onionlike bulbs are normally planted in late summer, and the growth cycle begins in late fall. First each bulb sends up handsome foliage. This is followed by a flower spike of closely packed tubular florets that last for several weeks. In the late spring the bulb begins to go dormant, and the leaves turn yellow; they are shed in early summer. A few months later new growth begins again.
There is some confusion about naming the few species and hybrids of this genus. It is generally agreed, however, that two distinct types, as described below, are now in cultivation.
RECOMMENDED VELTHEIMIAS V. capensis has blue-green leaves up to i foot long and 2 inches wide, with strongly undulate edges. The stout flower stalk, also 1 foot long, is spotted with purple, and the flowers that are carried on its terminal spike are pale pink and pendent. V. viridifolia has leaves up to 15 inches long and 4 inches wide, which are bright, glossy green, and less strongly undulate than those of V. capensis. The flower stalk may be as much as 2 feet long, and the blooms on the terminal spike are pinkish purple. It is also possible to obtain a rose-and-cream-flowered form sold as V.v. 'Rose-alba,' which has been developed in Holland. Note: Veltheimias are sometimes sold as V. glauca and V. deasii, but these names are no longer valid.
Light Whether growing or dormant, veltheimias need at least three or four hours of direct sunlight every day. In their natural habitat (South Africa) these plants would get a thorough baking in the sun during the whole of the summer rest period.
Temperature Despite their need for sunlight, veltheimias do not like heat during the winter months of active growth and will not flourish if temperatures rise to even as much as 6o°F at this time of year. Throughout the active growth period they should be given a well-ventilated, sunny position at no more than about 550. If this is impossible to achieve, the indoor gardener should not attempt to grow these plants.
Watering Water newly planted bulbs sparingly—only enough to make the entire potting mixture barely moist throughout—until some growth appears above the soil surface. Gradually increase the amount, but water only moderately at most, always letting the top half-inch of the mixture dry out between waterings. When the foliage begins to yellow, gradually reduce the amount. Once all leaves have died off, let the dormant bulb remain completely dry in its pot until new growth appears.
Feeding Apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer at half strength once a month from the time leaves are well developed until they start to yellow.
Potting and repotting Add one part of coarse sand or perlite to three parts of soil-based potting mixture; and, for additional drainage, put plenty of clay-pot fragments in the bottom of the pot. Vcltheimia bulbs are best planted in 5-inch pots, half in and half out of the potting mixture, in late summer or early fall. No repotting should be necessary for at least two or three years, although an annual late-summer topdressing with fresh mixture is beneficial. Repot vekheimias only when propagation becomes advisable.
Propagation Once a vcltheimia bulb reaches maturity, offsets begin to develop in quantity around its base, and in two or three years these are likely to crowd the pot. To propagate, use offsets with at least one pair of leaves. In late summer or early fall, detach them from the parent bulb and at the same time repot the parent in fresh potting mixture (either in its original 5-inch pot or another one). Plant each small new bulb in a 3-inch pot of the recommended potting mixture for mature vekheimias and keep it there until it is big enough to flower (after about three years). Then move it into a 5-inch pot.
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