Plants never give up: the tale of Scadoxus multiflorus growing in London

Written by Gloria Gross and Catherine Clulow

We received this contribution from a loyal Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) member, currently residing and gardening in London, England. Gloria regularly shares with the BotSoc Head Office the joys and trials of her passion for gardening. Her passion and fascination in plants is exciting to share, so here you have a short tale of Scadoxus multiflorus growing in London.

Who’s Gloria?

So by means of introduction firstly let us share a little about Gloria. Gloria is a designer and illustrator by profession, South African born and now retired and living and loving gardening in London. She left SA in her early years after completing her studies and traveled and worked around the world. Post 1994 she started returning to her birthland, SA and around about the same time joined the Botanical Society of SA.

Gloria remarks: Each year I turn up at Kirstenbosch for my ‘fix’! Standing in that wonderful January sunshine and heat and think – if only…As I reconnected with my roots I started to realise how much I loved native SA plants. The affinity I have with them. I feel a need to have them around me, in my garden. I also love the challenge of struggling with them in this climate especially to over-winter but with few exceptions – I have had some terrific results.

And here we share one example of one of her terrific success stories growing plants far from their homes.

Scadoxus multiflorus, commonly known as the blood flower, Catherine wheel, poison root or Fireball lily, is an indigenous South African plant, and member of the Amaryllidaceae family. With its strikingly showy floral display and evergreen foliage, this beauty is a real treat when its single flower blooms for the season. These plants albeit their beauty are poisinous.

Here’s Gloria’s experience growing this plant far from its home.

In April this year I bought a couple of Scadoxus multiflorus bulbs to replace one that had outgrown itself over the years. Being 7,000 miles away from their natural home they are obliged to live in my studio at the top of the house in London.

They’re not lonely up there because they have the company of several tropical favourites of mine – a Guava tree grown in a pot to make it possible. I planted the seed about six years ago and it’s been fruiting over the past few years. This year the fruits – all three of
them, were amazing in size and flavour. There are several Vygies, and a beautiful Hibiscus Rosa ninensis cooperii. In the winter – they have more company although my Proteas which are in pots seem to prefer remaining on the patio with bubble wrapped pots and fleece hoods at any sign of frost.

I first encountered Scadoxus some years ago in Camphor Avenue at Kirstenbosch and was blown away by it’s stunning colour and showiness. I was well tutored by Alice Notten whose knowledge is daunting and to whom I am really grateful.

The very healthy, large bulbs arrived in a box which I duly opened and left safe for planting. Now fast forward to September. These bulbs which I had unintentionally neglected had remained in their box growing strongly but very white as the box they were in shut out virtually all the light. It was also September and I had bought these to plant in April/May, being Spring here, and my guilt was mounting. There were three choices – plant them, hold to April or fling them. The third was discounted pretty quickly because the bulbs were so spectacular so I decided to plant there and then in pots to live as their predecessors had, in my studio as there’s no alternative in this climate.

That was 10th September. It’s been something of a manic race to complete their cycle. They absolutely had to flower no matter what. I find it incredible how they shot off as if nothing had happened, one far ahead of the other. The light was getting very low and autumn was beginning to close in. The first shoots turned green in a matter of days and on September 24th, the first flower was in open bud and fully opened on the 27th while the second plant was still very much in tight bud form.


But, not to be left behind in this survival race, and incredible by the 29th there was a beautiful flower waiting to open. On the 3rd October this second one opened whilst it’s companion was starting to droop.

8th October the first lot of crisp green leaves were stretching skywards and the competition arrived on the 14th. Now, on the 25th October just a month from starting this, the leaves are glossy and beautiful with two, now, withering flowers.

It feels like I have been watching a sped up movie. I wonder how long they will take to die down and rest before the next show and whether that will be back to the correct timing of April/May 2017? Isn’t it extraordinary how plants never give up.


Isn’t that inspiring? It really is true, plants never give up and we ought to  take a lesson from them.

Happy gardening to all our readers! Until next time…

For more information:

Please visit PlantZAfrica here.


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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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