Albuca humilis


Ornithogalum humile


Albuca humilis is native of South Africa and it’s slightly widespread from the Free State to the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho.


Albuca humilis is a perennial bulbous plant. It grows from ovoid, white bulbs which, in summer, form few (usually from 2 to 4) narrow, long, green smooth, glabrous leaves. It is a geophyte: this means that, in winter, its leaves dry up and die, leaving the bulb as the only living part. It’s the bulb that, in late winter-spring, form the inflorescence in the plant’s natural environment, and then, in summer, it forms also the leaves. The inflorescence is a corymbous, developing on a 10 centimeters long stem, which bears one to three white-green flowers, with six tepals each. “Tepal” is the botanical term to describe petals of flowers which don’t have any calyx. Normally, flowers have a corolla, which is the definition for the group of coloured petals, and a calyx, which is a green part with green sepals, which are kind of green petals. When there isn’t any chromatic difference between calyx and corolla, petals are called tepals. In the case of Albuca humilis, all the tepals are white with a green stripe on the external side. The tepals are organized in two levels: each level has three tepals. The inner three tepals have a yellow blotch on their point. The flowers have a particular scent, compared sometimes to the scent of marzipan. In its natural environment, the flowering period is in late winter and spring, but in northern temperate climates the plant blossom in summer.


In Europe temperate climates, Albuca humilis can sometimes be hard to cultivate because of the frequent bulbs rotting caused by frost or by a excessively wet substrate. If you put this plant into a well-draining, fertile substrate, you shouldn’t have any problem. Albuca can actually resist to a short period of frost, it can bear a minimum temperature of -5ºC. Water it seldom in summer, and regularly in autumn and winter, but don’t exceed: too much water can cause bulb rotting. Generally there’s no need of repotting. Put it in a bright spot to obtain its typical flowering.


It can be grown from seeds or new bulbs. Seeds usually germinate after a week without any problems in a moisted soil. The plant generates new bulbs by itself, so you can simply divide the new bushes of 3-4 leaves taking them off from the new bulb, and replant the new bulb in a new pot.


The genus name “albuca” comes from the latin “Albus”, white, and the species name, “Humilis”, refers to the attitude of this plant to grow little.

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