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Capricious And Colorful Sparaxis

, Admin

There are many colorful curiosities among bulbous plants. But no plant can compete in the variety of variegated colors and patterns with the luxurious Sparaxis. The perennial, which can't stand frost and in regions with severe winters can be grown only by digging it out of the ground for winter, even in the short summer it manages to show its originality. Gorgeous flowers with outlandish patterns and spots, though not the largest, but one of the most spectacular. It is not easy to grow Sparaxis, but the whims of this bulbous exot will be more than compensated by its spectacular appearance. © brian washburn

The imposing beauty of the florets of Sparaxis

Sparaxis is not the largest of representatives of onion plants. The flower stalks of this exot reach only 60 cm in height, and the bulb does not produce many leaves and does not create beautiful rosettes. In order to make a beautiful "spot", or group of sparaxis, the bulbs should be placed very densely, planted almost next to each other.

Sparaxis is a genus of the family Iridaceae, including 15 species of perennial herbaceous corms.

Sparaxis (Sparaxis) cannot boast a great diversity of species. It is a plant with several forms of growth, which today is divided into 4-5 wild natural species. Only two of them, Sparaxis tricolor (Sparaxis tricolor) and the dwarf Sparaxis elegant (Sparaxis elegans) are used in landscape design. The smooth, lanceolate leaves without pubescence merely visually accentuate the rather powerful flower stalk. But any disadvantages of greenery, including the small number, are more than compensated by the beauty of flowering. Not only is it decorative, but also colorful and extravagant in Sparaxis.

Blooming begins in regions with mild winters in the late spring and early summer, but in the middle belt and north it is much closer to the fall, in colorful August or September. The flowers are star-shaped, up to 5 cm in diameter. A dark ring separates the bright yellow center with stamens from the main color of the petals, which creates the effect of almost graphic. The color combinations of orange, yellow, pink, white and cream alternate with various mottled combinations that look like hand-painted patterns on the petals. In the dwarf Sparaxis, the colors are more limited: the flowers are painted either white or orange.

Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Sparaxis elegant (Sparaxis elegans). © James Gaither

Sparaxis elegans is used in garden design:

  • to create colorful spots in lawns and glades of groundcovers;
  • as luxurious accents in the foreground of flower beds and mixborders;
  • in large groups and in monoflowers;
  • in beds of bulb and corm-planted crops that require digging out;
  • for decoration of rockeries, palisades;
  • as a cutaway culture;
  • for decoration of rooms, greenhouses, winter gardens.

Cultivation of Sparaxis in regions with mild winters

Heat-loving and little winter-hardy, this bulbous just in warm climates develops naturally, with two stages of dormancy. In mild climates Sparaxis blooms in spring, in May-June, in summer they go into a dormant period, during which the bulbs must be dug up. And in the fall, they are planted back into the soil like most spring-flowering bulbs. Planting sparaxis, newly acquired or dug up after the leaves die off, is carried out in October. Bulbs are placed at a distance of about 10-15 cm between the plants, deepening to 10 cm from the soil line.

On the eve of winter, sparaxis plantings are covered with mulch, dry leaves or lapdrop, and in spring such a mini-shield is removed immediately after warming the soil and the onset of warm weather. As soon as sparaxis blossoms, all above-ground parts of the plant die off, the bulbs should be dug out again, dried and stored indoors together with the tulips.

Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Sparaxis tricolor. © Natalie Tapson

Sparaxis cultivation strategy in the middle belt

In harsh winters, in the middle belt and north, sparaxis can be grown only as a summer plant or as an onion plant with digging for winter. In many ways, the farming technique of this crop is similar to that of gladiolus, because asparaxis will also have to be removed from the soil and stored indoors before frost arrives. But there is a significant difference: the bulbs of sparaxis are much more capricious at the stage of winter storage, they are more often damaged by rot, wither, die. The explanation is simple: in nature the plant must be in the soil in winter, and because of the shifting terms of digging up and completely different temperature conditions during the period of storage outside the soil the bulbs suffer much more than gladiolus, accustomed to such treatment.

This plant is more suitable for greenhouse cultivation than for open ground: it is much easier to satisfy all caprices of sparaxis and give it stable growth conditions. But even outdoors, if you can pay attention to the plant and take care of its needs, you can succeed.

Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Sparaxis tricolor. © Arte Cifuentes

Growing Sparaxis in a potted culture with indoor wintering

If a strategy with offset flowering dates and digging out for the winter doesn't suit you, you can try growing Sparaxis as a container plant. Planting the bulbs in September in large containers and pots in compost to a depth of 2-3 cm, the bulbs can be left in a greenhouse or greenhouse until the first frosts, and then move either to living rooms or to a heated greenhouse and greenhouse.

In spring, when the development of sparaxis will begin the same as in regions with a warm climate, you will admire the flowering of bright onions. And after the bloom, when the foliage has died down by midsummer, the sparaxis will need to be removed from the soil and stored until planted in the fall. This strategy requires very meticulous care, but if you grow sparaxis for cuttings or have a winter garden, it is a great alternative to open soil.

Conditions comfortable for sparaxis

For sparaxis to not just flower, but to form large full flowers, it must be given a comfortable and "quiet" location. This plant needs quality protection from wind and draught, the choice of warm and secluded areas. But even the slightest shading is inadmissible: Sparaxis is extremely light-loving and grows only in sunny places in the conditions of the middle zone.

The soil characteristics are also very important. Sparaxis cannot be planted in any cultivated soil. This bulb needs a nutritious loam with good drainage and a rich loose texture. Even in the most water-permeable soils for Sparaxis still lay drainage: this plant is extremely sensitive to stagnant water, especially in summer.

Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Bulbs of Sparaxis.

Precautions for planting and digging up sparaxis

In the middle zone and north of the countryside sparaxis can be planted in soil only after the threat of return frosts has disappeared, the soil is warm and the weather is stable and warm. Bulbs are traditionally planted in May, but the planting is not as deep as in the southern regions under the winter. Spiraxis bulbs are placed close to each other, with an interval of 5-10 cm and not deeper than 5 cm from the soil line. The plant will bloom only 2-3 months later - in August at the May planting and in September at the June planting. Flowering will be much shorter than in southern regions. After flowering, the above-ground parts of sparaxis gradually die off, but you should be guided by the weather and not by the dying off of leaves: you need to remove the bulbs before the first frosts come. After digging, the bulbs should be carefully sorted, inspected and dried. Drying is carried out at a temperature of not less than 25 degrees - in a warm and actively ventilated room.

Care for Sparaxis

Growing Sparaxis without careful care will not work. This bulb cannot be "planted and forgotten": it needs care that compensates for the vagaries of the weather and allows it to bloom at unusual times for the plant.

The irrigations must respond sensitively to the features of the weather. In the slightest drought or extreme heat, the loss of moisture should be compensated for by keeping the soil lightly moist. But do not water Sparaxis too abundantly and vigorously: overwatering of the soil should be avoided as well as prolonged drought.

The need for feeding depends on the quality of the soil. On fertile soil, sparaxis is not to be fertilized at all, but on medium garden soil or depleted soil, fertilization is the key to the development of both flower stalks and bulbs. If you have not improved the soil to optimal parameters, then from the moment of planting the bulbs every month, apply a portion of full mineral fertilizers along with water for irrigation. The last fertilization can be done at the stage of active flowering and then you need to let the bulbs mature before digging.

Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Sparaxis tricolor (Sparaxis tricolor). © Alexander Kozik
Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Sparaxis graceful. © jeffs bulbesetpots
Capricious and colorful Sparaxis
Sparaxis elegans. © FarOutFlora

Wintering Sparaxis

Dried Sparaxis bulbous tubers are not normally stored. They are much more sensitive than other bulbs, and they need more than just cool temperatures to be preserved through the long winter and early spring. Sparaxis bulbs are preserved in dry sawdust and only in complete darkness. The optimal air temperature is 5 to 7 degrees Celsius. Both rotting and drying are equally dangerous for bulbs, so the humidity must be paid increased attention, not allowing extreme values.

Pests and diseases

Capriciousness Sparaxis slightly compensated by the resilience of the plant. In greenhouses and in mild climates, these bulbs can suffer from aphids, in regions with harsh winters only various types of rot caused by overwatering are dangerous for them.

Sparaxis multiplication

This bulb plant is multiplied not only by corms, but also by seeds. However, the latter option is possible only in warm climates or when growing in greenhouses, because young sprouts must be kept without dugging for 2 years until flowering (and only after that you can transfer the plant to normal growing mode). Seeds are sown in boxes or on seedbeds in August, in a loose nutritious substrate and germinated in the warmth. Immediately after the emergence of seedlings, they should be thinned. And after the young sprouts are stronger, it is better to transfer the plants gently into open soil or greenhouse soil.