The paintbrush lily is a prolific flowering bulb in the Amaryllis family that grows and flourishes in my Fallbrook garden. The Haemanthus species originates in the coastal regions of South Africa with a vast array of colorful indigenous bulbs.
The Cape Floral Region is a botanical anomaly and is home to more bulbous plants than anywhere else in the world. The Cape region alone has over 9,000 species of different plants in that small region, whereas California has about 6,300 varied native plants throughout the state in its database.
Haemanthus were the first bulbs from South Africa transported to Europe by the Dutch East India Company that imported the bulbs and the frenzy for plants from far-away lands began.
The paintbrush lily blooms from Thanksgiving into January. The common name of Paint brush lily is that it just looks like a short paint brush, atop a long stem as the handle.
The flowers are heavy with pollen and attract birds, bees, hummers, and butterflies at this time of year. The flowers can also pollinate themselves and produce orange-red berries after flowering and are easy to germinate but will take about 3-4 years before they reach the flowering size.
There are other Haemanthus species to grow in a shady nook in the garden or as a unique and stylish potted plant.
Years ago, I used to collect Haemanthus Katherine at a Santa Barbara estate and sold the bulbs to a research doctor at the University of Oregon for his cancer investigation program.
The doctor required large mature bulbs that had a specific enzyme for his research and those bulbs had to be at least five years old for his ongoing research program. I felt honored to be contributing to help in a small way in his cancer research with those specific bulbs that I provided for his scientific work.
There is a global Amaryllis society, with collectors around the world and breeding and plant selections, is ongoing to this day.
If you attend an Amaryllis show, get ready to be fascinated with a vast array of bulbs suited to our California gardens which are very drought tolerant once established.
The genus name Haemanthus has changed to Scadoxus and if interested, I sell them after they finish blooming in spring.
Roger Boddaert, Maker of Natural Gardens, can be reached at 760-728-4297 or [email protected] for assistance, consultations and creative landscape designs and professional tree care.