Introducing Acidanthera Your Garden’s Must-Have Summer Plant
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- Written by Holly Hughes on July 27, 2022
Looking for some showstopping and fragrant summer blooms to keep your garden lush and vibrant after your spring blooms have finished flowering?
Look no further than acidanthera - a gardener’s low-maintenance but high-quality dream!
What is acidanthera and why haven’t I heard of it?
Acidanthera is a wildflower that originates from Africa. A member of the gladiolus family, acidanthera, like ranunculus, are grown from corms that are planted in spring to deliver elegant and truly breathtaking blooms in summertime.
Related Post: South African Wildflowers
Despite being one of the easiest flowers you can grow in your garden, many people are unaware of acidanthera. This is partly due to its unusual name (for more funny and extraordinary plant names, check out this guide for an educational giggle!) and also because acidanthera goes by many different titles including peacock gladiolus, acidanthera murielae, gladiolus murielae, sword lily, gladiolus acidanthera, gladiolus callianthus, and Abyssinian gladiolus. This is just a sample of some of the names this plant goes by!
Why you should grow acidanthera flowers
If you are just discovering acidanthera, here’s why you must grow it as soon as possible in your garden!
First and foremost, acidanthera’s flowers are truly spectacular. Its six-petaled blooms appear almost like stars in a glorious shade of purest white fanning out from a deep burgundy center. They sit atop lush, sword-like leaves similar to that of gladiola but that are narrower and more graceful in appearance.
Though acidanthera flowers only last for a few days, each stem blooms at least a dozen flowers that open one after the other giving these plants a constant display of dancing white blooms.
The second reason to grow acidanthera is that it makes a great addition to cut flower arrangements. Its long stems and delicate flowers add both elegance and sophistication to a bouquet.
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Finally, acidanthera is so easy to grow! Keep reading to see just how low-maintenance this plant is to plant and care for.
How to grow acidanthera
Acidanthera can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10. It can even survive in zone 7 if planted deep enough and insulated with a good layer of mulch.
For lower zones from 3-7, you can still grow acidanthera by treating it as an annual, replanting fresh corms come springtime. Of course, digging up your bulbs and storing them in a cool, dry place through the cold winter months before replanting is another option for these colder regions.
All acidanthera needs to flourish is warm, well-draining soil and a location that receives full sun.
Once you’ve picked your corms, wait until all risk of frost has passed in your area as acidanthera bulbs do not do well in cold soil. Just like when growing dahlia tubers, a good rule of thumb is to plant your corms around the same time as you would tomatoes.
Then, dig a hole approximately 4-6” deep with anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of space between each corm (the bigger your corms, the more distance you will need between them). Place your corms in the hole and recover with soil.
After that, be sure to give your corms a regular watering during the growing season and then allow the soil to dry out during dormancy. To guarantee a flourishing plant, use a liquid fertilizer roughly once a month.
Where to plant acidanthera
What many gardeners love about this plant is its versatility. Acidanthera’s sword-like, upright foliage can help to add drama and texture to borders and flowerbeds and works well as a camouflage for spring-blooming plants that are beginning to die back in summer. It also is a great way to perk up a flower bed as spring flowers are beginning to go dormant. Therefore, planting it around or near plants like Dutch iris and allium is a great idea!
Acidanthera also thrive in pots and containers, particularly as they are quite slow-growing and can be overtaken by more earnest growers. This is also great news for smaller gardens or those in townhouses who might not have the luxury of a flower bed or garden. It also means that for shaded gardens, you can plant your acidanthera in pots that you can move around to catch the sun.
Related Post: Annual Shade Plants
When does acidanthera bloom?
These flowers are late summer bloomers so while you will begin to see foliage around July, it is often late into the season and August before flowers will begin to appear. However, this prolonged wait is most definitely worth it.
With acidanthera murielae height reaching up to a meter, these flowers, when they do arrive, offer drama, spectacle, and beauty that, if you space your planting wisely, you can enjoy from August right through to September.
As mentioned in colder areas (zones 3-7), you can either treat acidanthera as annuals, discarding them and replacing them with fresh corms the following spring. Alternatively, once flowering has stopped and the foliage has become damaged by frost, you can dig up the corms, drying them off completely and remove the foliage before putting them in a dry, dark, and cool location.
For zones 8 (and sometimes 7) to 10, you can leave your corms in the ground over winter, covering them with a protective layer of mulch, watering only in times of drought or if soil is completely dry.
Et voila! That’s how easy it is to fill your garden with this sensational summer plant. So get planting acidanthera and enjoy the fragrant joy of this flower during long, lazy summer days.
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