Whenever I visit with people about plants, whether they are for the outdoors or indoors, I always get a similar question, “Are they easy to grow?” It is a very good question in most cases as people want things that are hardy, tolerant and don’t take a lot of effort. Unfortunately, most situations are not like that and most require some degree of care and time. However, there are also plants that seem to thrive upon neglect and continue to do well regardless of their surroundings.
The second most common question I get is, “How often does it bloom?” Well, most outdoor plants in the garden will bloom often if it is an annual or perennial. Of course, there are some trees and shrubs that will also bloom at various times of the year. When it comes to indoor plants, a species that blooms is always on high demand. Since most are grown for their vegetative qualities, it is always nice to have some that produce blooms without too much effort.
Those that have a green thumb can get orchids and African violets to bloom quite frequently indoors. Other people can get hibiscus to bloom readily in the house as long as it has the high amounts of light needed to produce buds. There are also lipstick plants, chocolate soldiers, bromeliads, and goldfish plants that will bloom on occasion with the proper care.
Amaryllis produce wonderful blooms during the holidays as a forced bulb with very little care, but afterward most people tend to throw them out as they have trouble getting them to bloom a second time around. Another plant that is in the amaryllis family is that of the Kaffir Lily.
The Kaffir lily is a native of South Africa and grows on the forest floors in bright, diffused light with moist soils rich in organic matter. They are resilient to most conditions except direct sunlight where their leaves will become scorched.
These plants are considered an evergreen as they do not die back after blooming. Their leaves grow from a central point like the agapanthus and are dark green and leathery to the touch. Each leaf is about 2 inches wide by 18 inches long. As the leaves slowly grow, they will create quite a thick stem at the base. Unlike an amaryllis that grows from a bulb, the Kaffir lily neither grows from a bulb nor a rhizome. Rather, its thick base only resembles that of a bulb where fleshy roots form. As these large roots grow, they can heave the soil at times. As this happens, always apply a light layer of rich soil over them to protect them from the elements of dry air.
Since the plant can reach a height of 2 feet at maturity, it is always recommended to grow it is a heavy ceramic or clay container. With the plant’s solid and fleshy nature, plastic containers can tend to tip over due to the weight of the plant.
The Kaffir lily prefers bright, diffused light in the home that is typically available in east or west windows. They like their soil to be moist during the growing season from May through October and then have their watering reduced during the winter months when they are less active. During winter, only water the plant when the soil has thoroughly dried each time with a light fertilizer added. This fertilizer will allow the plant to gain the energy needed to produce a flower stem in the later part of winter to early springtime.
With this proper rest period, a mature plant will produce a flower stem from the center of the leaves that will reach a height of 2 feet and create anywhere from 12 to 25 lily-like blooms at the end. Each bloom can reach up to 2 inches across and last about five days each. If your plant does not bloom once mature, it is due to one of two things, either it did not go through the rest period required or it is in too dark of a location.
The most common color of flower produced is orange with the yellow centers, but with the newer hybrids, they will also bloom in yellow, salmon, pink and white. After the flowers have faded and the stem turns yellow, gentle snip the stem from the plant to allow it to continue growing. A mature plant will produce new off-sets from the base that can eventually be divided when they have anywhere from four to five leaves each. New plants can take three to five years before they can produce a flower, but after that time can bloom annually.
**NOTE** -- This easy-to-grow plant does come with one warning: All parts of it are highly toxic so do not allow your pets or children to eat any part of them.
For a truly easy to grow houseplant that will actually bloom without a great deal of effort, the Kaffir lily is an item to seek for your indoor collection. It has great deep foliage, doesn’t need direct sunlight, can live in the same container for years, and will produce a beautiful cluster of flowers to brighten your day. There is not much this plant does not offer the indoor gardening enthusiast. If you find one in your neighborhood, pick one up, as they are not easy to find.
While I await my Kaffir lily to get buds, I have been rewarded in the meantime with my agapanthus getting a 2-foot flower stem of delicate blue flowers. Yes, winter indoors has its bonuses also.