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.
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.
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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.
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.
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