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What is Galtonia?

Deborah Walker
Deborah Walker

Galtonia, also known as summer hyacinth, cape hyacinth, and spire lily, is a member of the Hyacinthaceae, or hyacinth, family. Just four species of perennial bulbs are included in this genus. Galtonia is native to South Africa and Lethoso. It is a favorite of gardeners in both warm and cold climates, and can be grown in indoor or outdoor pots, containers, or flower beds. The cut flowers are very long-lasting and deliciously fragrant.

Plants in this genus typically grow flower spikes from 3 to 4 feet (1-2 m) tall. Its long, slender, dark green leaves may reach up to 3 feet (1 m) in length. During mid-to-late summer, each flower spike can grow as many as 30 white, drooping, bell-shaped flowers. The Galtonia virdiflora species flowers are tinged with green. All of the species of flowers in this genus are quite showy and have a very pronounced, sweet smelling fragrance.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Galtonia thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones seven through ten. It grows best in full sunlight, although dappled afternoon shade is fine. Soil should be sandy and well-drained, have a neutral-to-mildly alkaline pH level, and plenty of organic content. During spring and summer, the soil should remain moist, not muddy. Over-watering makes the bulbs susceptible to rot.

At the end of the flowering season in warm climates, the bulbs must be removed from the ground and stored over the winter in a cold, dry, frost-free area. In colder climates, the bulbs can either be removed from the ground or left in the ground over the winter. If left in the ground, the bulbs must be covered with extra layers of mulch or leaves.

Galtonia is propagated by dividing the bulbs in the early spring every two or three years. When replanting, in order to make sure the plants are as healthy as possible, it is important to give the bulbs plenty of space. Plants can also be propagated by seed. If grown from seed, they may take up to five years to begin blooming.

All species of this plant are susceptible to fungal diseases. Many gardeners spray a preventative fungicide before buds begins to grow. The bulbs are also susceptible to rot, which can be prevented by providing the proper amount of water and overwintering in a dry location. For the most part, the plants are resistant to insect infestations. The only common problems are the occasional slug or snail. Periodic checks for slugs and snails will keep the plant free of these pests.

Gardeners often plant Galtonia in cottage-style gardens, grouping the bulbs for a strong visual impact. It is also used as a border plant or in a cut-flower garden. The plants grow well in outside containers and indoor pots of different sizes, as long as they are not overcrowded. Wherever they are planted, Galtonia plants never fail to add beauty to the surroundings.

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