Gardening Magazine

Nine Months Later, Babies!

By Gardenamateur

No, I know what you're thinking, not the mewling and puking kind. I mean baby plants! 
But it has taken a whole nine months of gestation from planting seeds in a pot to having babies make their appearance. In fact it has taken so long that I had even forgotten about them entirely, until this morning, when I spotted the lush, green shoots of my baby Scadoxus coming up. What a surprise, a thrill and a delight rolled into one little pot of green growth. Time for some photos and a few explanations.

Nine months later, babies!

Scadoxus babies, in rude green health.

Nine months later, babies!

The appearance (on the right) of this sole flowering shoot
has me a bit confused at the moment. Are all the other leaves
attached under the soil to this one shoot, or is this person
just a precocious youngster willing itself into being a
teenager before it's even out of its nappies? I don't know.

Nine months later, babies!

Just in case you're a new reader of this
blog and are wondering, quite rightly,
"what in the hell is Scadoxus?" let me
show you this plant, courtesy of a lovely
painting of them in bloom done by
my Pammy (Pamela Horsnell). These
vibrant crowns of orange bloom every
year in September. The stalks are
about 40-60cm tall and the flowers
quite large, about 20cm across at the top. 

We've had our Scadoxus puniceus bulbs here since 2009. They were a gift from gardening writer Geoffrey Burnie, with whom I worked very happily for a number of years at Burke's Backyard magazine. Geoffrey gave me excellent instructions on choosing a spot and caring for them, and every year they flower in spring. The clump of them has been slowly but steadily increasing in size, and the number of flowering stalks has gone from the original three to about 10 this year (I say "about" as not all stalks flower, the younger ones seem to like having a practice run in the years leading up to their first flowering).

Nine months later, babies!

At the end of flowering they form large clusters of seed
which start out green (like this) then eventually turn red ... 

Nine months later, babies!

... like this. Nowhere near as many ripe seeds as unripe ones.

My online reading about Scadoxus tells me they are both tricky and slow to propagate, and that's been my experience.

Talk about tricky! It's never worked until this year. And talk about slow! I planted the seed in a pot on December 19 last year, and I discovered the seedlings this morning, in the middle of August.

In previous years I sowed the seed around the base of the scadoxus clump, kept the soil lightly moist and well mulched ... and nothing ever happened.

Last December, I decided to try a pot. The seed were not buried deeply but they were fully covered with potting mix, and the pot was placed next to my potted goldfish pond in a spot which was warm and sheltered enough, but gets almost no direct sun at all. The scadoxus pot received regular but not very plentiful watering, living off the scraps of water which fell down onto it as I routinely splashed water around topping up the water in the goldfish pond and watering the nearby orchids.

That's hardly any kind of scientific "how to raise scadoxus from seed" report, but that's how it happened, and it seems to have worked ... so far.

Now I am faced with the responsibilities of parenthood. How to raise the babies ... so many decisions ... where to put them, what to feed them, when to transplant them into the ground. So here's the plan.

Nine months later, babies!

I'm putting the pot out where the in-ground scadoxus are. They
love it there, so it has to be the right spot. It's shady most of
the year, but brightly lit. It does get midday summer sun
but not for long. My job will be to keep the little pot moist,
and maybe move it to cooler, shady shelter if an absolute
scorcher is forecast during summer. As for food, not much,
just a few general purpose slow-release pellets.

Nine months later, babies!

The usual way that my Scadoxus increase
in numbers is by sending up baby shoots
around the base of each bulb. This they
are doing very readily, with each
mature bulb surrounded by half a dozen
eager youngsters.

Nine months later, babies!

How many babies in that pot, one
or five? I'll find out later.

I suspect my baby scadoxus plants might be several years away from ever producing a superb bloom. The plants which Geoffrey gave me were meaty bulbs as big as onions, so my tiny little slender seedlings have quite a few years to go before they reach that kind of muscularity. And of the four bulbs which Geoffrey gave me, one was smaller than the others and so took two years before it produced its first flower. My bet is that if my baby seedlings ever grow up to flower, it could take six or seven years at least for them to do so, maybe more.

Nine months later, babies!

But won't it be worth the wait! 

Every year I do a little posting about our scadoxus blooming, and that should be happening within the next two to three weeks most likely.

This year, however, it's the cute little babies which are stealing the show by getting in early. It might have taken almost nine months to happen, but it definitely has been one of the highlights of my gardening year. Such simple fun!

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