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Posts Tagged ‘Schizostylis coccinea’

I have worked at several large nurseries over the years and the first was a large company which grew perennials. It was recommended I work there as it was the largest in Canada for that type of plant. I was not disappointed and learned a great deal from the vast array of plants they stocked on a regular basis. It was also interesting to see what plants they would introduce to this area of Canada which is by far the mildest and has the widest range of options. Many plants were new not to just me but in some cases to the rest of North America.  At that time many new plants were originating from New Zealand, South Africa and South America. One spectacular plant is the very late blooming scarlet red Schizostylis (Hesperantha)coccinea or Scarlet or Scarlet River Lily which is from the Drakensberg Mountain area of South Africa.

The spectacularly colored Schizostylis coccinea or Scarlet River Lily.

The spectacularly colored colored Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' or Scarlet River Lily.

Scarlet River Lilies have been known since 1864 when they were brought into cultivation in Europe. The area they come from is quite high up in the mountains 1500-2500m(4900-8200ft.). They also grow in very moist areas, beside stream banks and seasonal islands. It is felt that this is an adaption to their climatic situation which is part of why they have been reclassified to be listed as  Hesperantha coccinea. Other members of Hesperantha grow from corms and Schizostylis coccinea grows from rhizomes. ‘Schizostylis’ refers to the the flower being in parts of 3 which is common with all members of the Iris(Iridaceae) family. ‘Coccinea’ refers to it’s red  flower color which is how it is seen in the wild.

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white to deep scarl

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white Schizostylis cocccinea 'Alba' to deep scarlet.

In the wild Scarlet River Lilies live up to their color name and are good shade of red which works in many situations. Since being brought into cultivation many shades have become known and some are quite delightful. I first  became familiar Schisostylis coccinea with ‘Major’ with large red flowers, then,  ‘Sunrise’ which is coral pink and  Mrs. Hagarty which is a lighter pink color.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area is 'Sunrise'.

As I noted Scarlet River Lilies normally live in moist areas and this feature makes them very useful in the gardens. It is hard to find such bright plants with attractive and disease resistant plants for boggy areas. I much prefer this plant to many of the Irises commonly used as they can become to aggressive. This plant is also easily adapted to other areas where there is adequate moisture in the soil.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

When growing  the easy and adaptable Schizostylis coccinea, choose a sunny site for the best show of blooms. Soil should be rich and moisture retentive. Care must be taken to make sure they do not dry out  when they are setting their flower buds as they will be lost. Buds also can be damaged by early frosts. These plants take -10c(14f) and is rated at zones 7 through 10. I have seen them sited in mixed borders, at the base of sunny slopes and along water ways and next to informal ponds and pools.  They also can be used in mass plantings for long blooming fall color.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The overall effect of this plant is relaxed as the leaves and floral stems are often lax. Scarlet River Lilies make great cut flowers, I place the red form in my tall large dark blue glass vase for a wonderful effect. It is best when buying these plants to choose them when in bloom as I think there is quite a lot of mis-labeling happening.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

More about Schizostylis coccinea:

How to grow them:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3324532/How-to-grow-Schizostylis.html

Techincal information about why they have been reclassifed: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/pbs/2003-February/001617.html

other members of the Hesparantha family: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/HesperanthaTwo#coccinea

Until We Meet Again Later….

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