Ledebouria socialis

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Botanical Name
Ledebouria socialis
Hyacinthaceae - The hyacinth family.
le-de-BOR-ree-a so-SEE-ah-liss
Common Name(s)
English: Ledebouria
IsiXhosa: umledina
Plant Group
  • Bulb / Corm / Rhizome / Tuber / Epigeal bulb Bulbs: are made up of fleshy scales as in an onion Corm: a short, swollen, underground stem that is hard and not fleshy as in a gladiolus Tuber: a solid, fleshy, underground, storage organ as in a potato Rhizome: an underground, horizontal, swollen stem at the base of the plant as in an iris Epigeal bulb: bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth as in albuca
  • Ground Cover A plant with a low-growing, spreading habit, grown specifically to cover the ground.
  • Succulent A plant having fleshy stems or leaves often adapted to dry conditions.
Plant Size
  • Small
    Tree4m to 8m
    Shrub50cm to 75cm
    Perennial/ground cover10cm to 20cm
    Bulb20cm to 30cm
    Succulent10cm to 20cm
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen to semi-deciduous The plant is evergreen in warmer, wetter parts of the country, but may lose some of its leaves during winter in colder, drier situations.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Ledebouria belong to a succulent plant group with Epigeal bulbs - bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth. Ledebouria socialis grows in clusters which become tightly packed as the plants mature. The small bulbs are usually on the surface of the ground. (I have found a large group buried quite deeply on the banks of a nearby stream but that could be a result of eroded soil being dumped over the plants during storms.) The lance-shaped leaves vary in colour: purple bulbs with silvery coloured leaves with green spots and blotches and purple underneath; or green bulbs, leaves silvery above and green below, with or without spots. They are evergreen in moister areas but deciduous in drier areas or where there is light frost.

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tiny, bell-shaped, clustered along the ends of long, lax stems

  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • pink
Growth Rate
  • Moderate to Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Edging A low growing plant that provides softness or definition to the edges of a bed or walkway.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Foliage Plant Plants grown because their foliage is colorful or unique. Many of these plants have insignificant flowers.
  • Ground Cover Low-lying plants that spread fast, require minimal maintenance, and cover large expanses or bare areas between bulbs or shrubs. They provide protection from erosion and drought and improve the visual appearance of the garden.
  • Mass Planting Plants useful for filling a large area with just one or a few kinds of plants spaced close together. Creates a bold, dramatic effect and to reduces maintenance.
  • Pot Plant A plant that needs a protected environment on a patio or indoors.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

Eastern Cape Province, in the shade of other plants in valley bushveld

Planting Suggestions

Ledebouria socialis prefers full sun and a well-drained soil. It also grows well in partial or light shade, but the more the shade, the less the leaf markings are evident. Water adequately in the summer growing season - over-watering will reduce the purple colouring as well as the blotches, and could also rot the bulbs. Ensure a dry resting period during the winter. This plant can be used as an indoor plant in a bright, sunny spot.

Medicinal Uses

Mention has been made that Ledebouria species have been used medicinally for pregnancy, diarrhoea, influenza, backache, skin irritations, wounds and lumbago. In Africa the genus is alleged to be poisonous.

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