veldt lily

Everyday Gardeners

Ultimate Easy-Care Houseplant

If you’re looking for a unique houseplant that’s easy to grow, consider the veldt lily (Veltheimia bracteata), also known as cape lily. This bulbous plant is a mid-winter bloomer, with a cluster of tubular pink blossoms that bear a resemblance to a bottle brush or the perennial flower red-hot poker. One of my plants is just starting to color up now. Another, which spent more time in the chilly greenhouse, will be several weeks behind.

veldt lily

veldt lily

Even before it blooms its undulating glossy green leaves make it an attractive foliage plant. The leaves are so perfectly shiny that many who see my plants think that they must be artificial. After the plant finishes blooming, cut off the flower stalk, and keep the plant in bright light, watering frequently enough to keep the soil evenly moist. By late spring, the foliage will begin to die back. Withhold water at that time, and let the plant go dormant. (As a native of South Africa, it’s programmed to grow on an alternate cycle to most of our Northern Hemisphere plants.) Set the plant aside over summer–I stick mine in the garage. In early fall, resume watering. You’ll be rewarded with an abundance of blooms in midwinter.

This plant is a survivor. Back in my college days, I left my veldt lily in the care of my mother while I studied abroad for two years. Because I departed in July, the plant was dormant and sitting in her dark fruit cellar. I came back 2 years later to find the plant in the same spot, and still alive! It had not been watered or moved to a sunny window in that entire time. As I recall, it didn’t bloom that first year, but grew beautiful foliage, and by the following winter was back on schedule with it’s reliable display of colorful flowers. Now that’s what I call one tough plant!

You probably won’t find the plant for sale at your local garden center, but it is available from several on-line mail order houseplant specialty nurseries and bulb growers.