Plant Profile: Leucocoryne hybrids- A stunning flowering bulb from the Andes

Leucocoryne hybrid. Damn fine.

Back when I used to run the nursery, we used to make a lot of sales of these bulbs. They were super-popular. However actually GROWING Leucocoryne was a bit of a challenge, and I could only rarely get them to flower. These are mostly supplied as mixed hybrids, or sometimes available as named selections. Most of the hybrids involve crosses between Leucocoryne purpurea, and Leucocoryne vittata.

We used to get our bulbs from various sources, but in many cases these same sources would also supply growers who primarily supplied the cut-flower industry; it is a major end-point for many of the bulbs produced by the industry. As a result, some of the species on offer made spectacular cut-flowers.

A super-mini bouquet with Leucocoryne, Dianthus, and Armeria.

Leucocorynes were one of these bulbs- a cut flower subject which has exacting requirements for flowering, but is certainly worth it – particularly if you are then able to distribute them en masse.  Eventually, with a little experimentation, I was able to find the right way to get these to flower but it was tricky given the balance I had to strike with the other plants in my care. In essence they need a cold, moist growing period – during the winter. And with only the lightest of frosts permitted. Specialist growers use refrigerated growing chambers to coax these beauties into bloom year-round, but they have different priorities. In a greenhouse it was a nightmare to provide these conditions, so the best way to grow these outdoors is in a sheltered position near a house, or in a sheltered rockery. Even then, you have to hope that you don’t have any really cold weather during the winter.

Plant them deep – they like the support of the soil for the tall stems, and it will protect them from the worst cold. Sandy soil is always best for these, but feed them in Autumn.

If you can keep these happy in your garden, then enjoy them. They are GORGEOUS flowers, and they work well as additions to bouquets, or as single-stem accents.

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