Watsonia borbonica

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Botanical Name
Watsonia borbonica
Iridaceae - The iris family.
wat-SO-nee-uh bor-BON-ee-kuh
Common Name(s)
English: Cape Bugle Lily
Afrikaans: Suurkanol
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
Plant Size
  • Very large
    TreeOver 25m
    ShrubOver 4m
    Perennial/ground coverOver 1m
    BulbOver 1.2m
    Succulent1.5m to 2m
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • 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
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • 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

Watsonia borbonica is a winter growing corm with sword-shaped leaves of about 75 cm in height, arranged in fans. The flower stems are tall, growing up to 2 m with up to 20 blooms per spike. The flowers last for 4 to 5 weeks. Corms start sprouting in autumn and the foliage dies back after flowering in early summer. The plant remains dormant during summer. In time the plant will form large clumps. It can withstand mild winter frost.

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tall flower spike with up to 20 tubular blooms to a spike 

  • 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.
  • mauve
  • pink
  • white
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
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Cut Flowers Plants that provide flowers suitable for ornamental uses.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • 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

in the extreme southwest of the Western Cape , from Tulbagh, south to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to Bredasdorp, on rocky sandstone slopes or well-drained slopes of clay and granite, and sometimes in deep sandy soil at the foot of the mountains

Planting Suggestions

Watsonia borbonica needs a sunny, well-drained position which is fairly dry over summer when the bulbs are dormant. Plant corms in early autumn and water regularly during the active growth phase. Occasional feeding during the growing season with small doses of organic fertilizer will improve flowering. Although adapted to a winter rainfall climate, it will thrive under summer rainfall conditions provided it is grown in well-drained soil. After flowering, the leaves and stems can be cut back. Clumps are best lifted and divided every three to five years after flowering, during the dormant season, and the corms re-planted immediately or stored until autumn. Corms should be planted at a depth of approximately half their diameter. Corms will rot if over-watered or if planted in poorly drained soil .

To prolong vase life of cut flowers, burn the cut ends of the stems soon after picking.

Medicinal Uses

No data found.

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