Glory be!

by Adam Pasco

They were a long time coming, but my Glory Lily has finally started flowering. It was my fault really, as I should have planted the tubers earlier in the year.

Gloriosa rothschildianaThey were a long time coming, but my Glory Lily has finally started flowering. It was my fault really, as I should have planted the tubers earlier in the year. Time caught me out, and despite receiving them in March they remained in the paper bag until May. At least they did get planted - better late than never - and now I'm really enjoying their display.

I first grew the Glory Lily about 25 years ago when I was editor of Greenhouse magazine (this was actually my first editorship after entering journalism, but that's another story).

I just love their Latin name... Gloriosa rothschildiana. The Gloriosa bit is very uplifting, and captures the thrill I feel of seeing these spectacular flowers unfold their stunning petals... simply glorious. Then comes the upmarket bit. Anything called rothschildiana must have a good heritage. Apparently it was named after Baron Z.W. Rothschild (a keen ornithologist) who collected flowers from Africa to exhibit at a horticultural show in England in the early 1900's.

Growth is quite upright at first, but these are twining plants that love to scramble. The tip of every leaf has a hooked end that helps it catch hold and climb. Lend a hand by tying to canes in the pots. With this in mind, growth can get top-heavy, so plant in heavier terracotta pots instead of plastic ones to provide more stability.

Like so many exotics gloriosa is not hardy, but I've never had a problem saving tubers from one year to the next. I just refrain from watering pots from about the end of October, letting plants use up moisture until the compost has dried up and they die down. Then I leave the dormant tubers in their dry compost over winter, which I hope insulates them from cold.

Memo to myself: Remember to start the gloriosa tubers into growth earlier next year so that I can enjoy their flowers for longer.

PS: Gloriosa are highly toxic if eaten, so don't eat them... not even a nibble if you're feeling peckish!

PPS: Trawling the web, I've just discovered that gloriosa is the National Flower of Zimbabwe.

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/01/2007 at 00:00

What a beautiful plant. I was wondering if anyone has experience of leaving their canna lillies outside over Winter? I live in Bucks and thought I would give it a go this year with the winters' seeming to be milder now. It's a Canna iridiflora that has flowered for 2 years running. I covered the crown with a good layer of straw and peat, and a big pot. Do you think it will bloom again this year or have I been foolhardy and lost the plant? I can't see any new shoots yet.

Gardeners' World Web User 09/10/2007 at 23:25

I also grow canna lilies in large pots, and one has been in the same pot for its third summer. I simply move the whole pot into my unheated greenhouse in late October, before frost strikes in my area.

Refrain from watering to allow the foliage to die down naturally, and then snip this away at compost level during winter. Come spring I just start watering the pot again, and once shoots emerge I start giving a liquid feed occasionally too. No, I don't remove it from its compost or do anything complicated, but it appears to thrive.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/10/2007 at 16:34

Thanks for that Adam, I'll give it a go. However as I heat my greenhouse in the winter I will probably store it in my frost free outhouse.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/10/2007 at 17:18

I have grown canna lilies in large pots for several years and have always found that even though kept in a greenhouse overwinter they have been very slow to come into bloom. Last in desperation - because I had bought a yellow striped leaved canna and forgotten to put it in a larger pot and therefore it had dried out several times - I put it in the garden in a sunny position. Would you believe this year it has been the best canna in the garden, that includes several in pots as mentioned. This has grown to about 5-6ft tall and has flowered repeatedly for some weeks now. The others have hardly produced any flowers at all and are stunted in comparision. So maybe with our warmer winters they can now be left in the garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/10/2007 at 17:00

A friend made my wedding bouquet of gloriosa and ever since I have wanted to grow this plant but have not yet tried. Can it be grown outside (North West England) as I haven't got a conservatory?

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