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Haemanthus | Grow & Care Guide

Published on October 21st 2021
haemanthus albiflos paintbrush
Powderpuffs are one of the most vivid and unusual bulbs one can add to a garden. There is a species for every spot, from sun to shade. The pop of red lights up the dappled shade no matter where you are in South Africa.
Let us take a glance at how you can include these in the garden for a great summer or autumn display.

Species Selection

There are 22 Haemanthus species, all indigenous to Southern Africa. A total of 15 occur in the winter rainfall regions with the remaining six preferring summer rainfall. It is the latter six species that provide the pop of colour we crave during the heat of summer.
In addition to the fiery blooms, there are several advantages to adding them in your borders.
Did you know the bulbs are:
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Container plants
  • Suited to rockeries
  • Indoor plants
  • Medicinal
  • Attract bees & insects
  • Attract Butterflies
  • Attracts Birds
When they are not in flower, the deciduous species will push out new leaves (which die off before the bloom emerges). Remember these may require a resting period or cold snap to flower yearly. This brings us to the heart of the matter, taking care of the bulbs. Make sure to take note of both the deciduous/evergreen classification as well as the rainfall area (it will serve you well down the line).
Cape species such as Haemanthus sanguineus are fire adapted, meaning they typically flower after a fire.
Summer Rainfall

Haemanthus deformis

Haemanthus deformis

*Evergreen, Flowers in July
  • Haemanthus carneus Deciduous, Flowers in January
  • Haemanthus humilis Deciduous, Flowers in November
  • Haemanthus humilis Giant Deciduous, Flowers in January
  • Haemanthus humilis subsp. hirsutus Deciduous, Flowers in December
  • Haemanthus montanus Deciduous, Flowers in December
  • Haemanthus paucifolius Evergreen, Flowers in December
Winter rainfall:
*Deciduous, Flowers in ate Summer/Autumn
*Evergreen, Flowers in Autumn/Winter
*Deciduous, Flowers in Autumn
  • Haemanthus sanguineus Deciduous, Flowers in late Summer/Autumn
  • Haemanthus deformis, Evergreen, Flowers in Autumn/Winter
  • Haemanthus amarylloides subsp. polyanthus, Deciduous, Flowers in Autumn

Care Guide

Haemanthus bulbs can be classified into four groups according to Dr Dee Snijman. These are the (1) H. humilis group (incl. H. carneus), (2) H. crispus group (incl H. barkerae), (3) H. albiflos group (incl H. deformis) and (4) H. coccineus group (largest group). Each group differs slightly in terms of how they flower and should be cared for.
Group 1:
  • Summer rainfall
  • Flower mid-summer
Group 2:
  • Winter rainfall
  • Flower in Autumn
  • Requires a dry summer dormancy
Group 3:
  • Winter rainfall
  • Flower in Winter and early Spring
  • Requires a dry summer dormancy
Group 4:
  • Winter rainfall
  • Flower in Autumn
  • H. albiflos does not mind salt spray near the coast
  • Requires a dry summer dormancy
Growth & propagation tips:
  • Seed to Flower: 5-6 Years for a flowering bulb
  • Germination: In damp seedling mix
  • Keep seedlings in a seedling tray for a year or two before transplanting
  • Easiest to propagate: H. albiflos, H. coccineus and H. humilis
  • Do not let seedlings dry out, but they should not stand in water
  • Dry Winter: Some summer rainfall deciduous species require a dry winter rest
  • Use a well-draining soil mix
*Legally sourced seed may be obtained from registered nurseries. Several species are threatened and wild collection of seed or bulbs is illegal.
Registered retailers:
A plant in a garden

Shire Bulbs

Located at the foot of the Amatola Mountains near Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, the Shire Wild Bulb Nursery lies on the edge of the indigenous afro-montane forest. Our focus is on indigenous bulbs of the Eastern Cape region, but we also grow a number of winter rainfall species from the Western Cape. The Shire eco-lodge, whose chalets rest 2 steps from the forest edge, is an ideal getaway destination to explore the Mountain grasslands and their wealth of wildflowers. Guided day tours can be arranged where you will be taken to our favourite spots.

A close up of food

Lifestyle Seeds

Suppliers of indigenous South African seed Please note that seeds are sold in quantities of 100 seeds (the price on the website is for 100 seeds). Bulbs and live plants are priced per plant. Rare seeds are priced as in their product description. For all of us here at Lifestyle Seeds, Indigenous South African plants and seeds are our passion. We go to great lengths to be able to offer you a large variety of freshly picked seeds, and good quality plants and bulbs. Our seeds are checked and counted by hand to make sure you get only the best quality and to ensure that you get maximum results. We also offer rare plants and seeds, caudex plants and caudiciform plants. We always try to work with Mother Nature and make sure that we do not damage plants, insects or animals. We try to run our office and business as eco-friendly as possible and we have planted more than 400 indigenous trees on our premises during the last year. Of course we will keep on planting more! Our hot water is generated by solar panels while we use Power Saints and energy saver light bulbs to decrease our electricity usage.

The SA Bulb Company

Bulb export company and retail nursery offering a wide range of irises, pelargoniums and many other interesting specimens.

We have to note that several beloved species have been moved out of the Haemanthus genus to Scadoxus. The most notable is the shade-loving Scadoxus multiflorus. A shade-loving bulb of particular splendour. Note that such changes are inevitable, but that the care remains the same.
scadoxus multiflorus
Scadoxus multiflorus was moved from Haemanthus, but it is easy to see the similarities between the two genera.

Pests & Diseases

Members of the Amaryllidaceae family all suffer the inevitable problem of the Amaryllis borer. The moth caterpillar burrows into the leaves and bulbs, destroying the bulb in the process. Its life cycle starts in early summer when it emerges from pale yellow eggs and enters the bulb, so now is the time to keep a close eye on them.
For information on treatment, see the profile below:
In addition to the caterpillar, the most common problems arise from inadequate air circulation and poor drainage. Both lead to bacterial and fungal rot. For a guide to the treatment of fungal infections, see Treating mould and fungal infections on plants.
For more great posts by Candide's Haemanthus enthusiasts see below:

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Duncan, G. (2016). The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa. Umdaus Press.
Macfarlane, R. (2017). The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa.