In A Vase: Abysinnian Lily

August 10, 2015 flowers 004~

There are some flowers so simply elegant they beg to come inside and continue growing in a vase.

These Abyssinian lilies, also known as Peacock Orchids, should always be cut and enjoyed.  Their fragrance reminds me of Easter lily.  They last for several weeks in water, slowly opening one flower after the next on tough, healthy green stems.


August 7, 2015 ground 007~

My first bulbs came as a free bonus with a larger plant order some years ago.  Some of the common mail order nurseries offer them as a ‘bonus gift’ each spring.   I pushed them casually into a pot and forgot about them.

But OH, when they grew, I was delighted to see them unfold their delicate flowers.


August 10, 2015 vase 003~

A relative of the more common Gladiolus, these marginally hardy Acidanthera bicolor multiply from year to year.  Native to South Africa, they are hardy in Zones 8-10, and will survive most winters here in Zone 7 with mulch.   Some years they come back for us, and others they don’t.


Each bulb measures about 8'10 cm and should be planted no more than 2" deep, as  you would plant any Glad bulb in full sun.

Each bulb measures about 8-10 cm and should be planted no more than 2″ deep, as you would plant any Glad bulb in sun.


I purchased a bag of the little bulbs this spring and tucked them into several beds, among Iris and other plants to bring some color when other things weren’t in bloom.

These bulbs, sold as “Peacock Orchids” can be found in the spring for less than fifty-cents per bulb.  And I just came across this little bag of free bulbs, neglected for the last several months in the garage.  They’ve started growing already, and I hope there is still time for them to bloom where I just tucked them into a pot near the kitchen door.


August 10, 2015 bulbs 001~

The plants grow tall and narrow.  Although the scapes will reach to 36″ tall, each bulb produces only one narrow stem.  They can be planted a few inches apart in full sun to partial shade.  Each bulb produces one scape of leaves and blooms in late summer; then lies dormant until the following year.


August 10, 2015 vase 004~

But these lovely flowers are well worth the tiny effort they require.  A single stem looks elegant in a small vase.  I have two here with a stem of scented Pelargonium foliage and a stem of Tradescantia pallida, or purple heart.  This arrangement reaches out to you with its sweet fragrance.


August 10, 2015 vase 002


The vase is a simple rummage sale find, but I like it and keep it filled much of the time.  A moonstone frog and moonstone turtle keep watch beside the vase.


A second vase sits in another room, as I cut a bit too much today.

A second vase sits in another room, as I cut a bit too much today.


Cathy, of Rambling in the Garden, hosts this inspiring challenge to fill a vase each Monday with something beautiful found in the garden.  Some weeks are easier than others.  The garden is awash in flowers now in mid-August, and also offers up herbs and interesting foliage.

Every new thing blooming brings its own delight as our winter dreams come to fruition in summer’s warmth.


August 10, 2015 flowers 003~

Woodland Gnome 2015

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

19 responses to “In A Vase: Abysinnian Lily

  1. I can’t believe they are blooming already! Although I suppose mine would have too, had I planted them when I got them instead of letting them languish too long in their bag. So pretty – now I can’t wait… But I have to ask what bulb companies mean when they say the bulb is 8-10 cm? 8 cm is about 3″, and I know these bulbs aren’t even 1″ across. Maybe they are referring to the recommended planting distance from each other? Size-wise, those numbers just don’t make sense…

    • Anna, leave it to you to do the math and see the absurdity of that 8-10 cm for a bulb the size of a grape. Here is the link:

      The bulbs I photographed came from a different source, but still….. The bulbs I planted this spring, from an extremely reputable source, were a little larger still. I wonder whether the measurement is circumference rather than the width or height? If you order from this source (and they are excellent) Please let me know whether the bulbs ‘measure up.’ Giant hugs, WG ❤ ❤ ❤

      I hope yours bloom for you soon. The ones I planted last week already show little nubs above the soil. Do you think they'll have time to bloom before the frost?? Giant hugs, WG

      • Circumference… hmm, maybe…. I seriously see those numbers all the time in bulb catalogs, and I have never ever managed to figure out what those numbers represent. I grew up on the metric system, so I feel I know centimeters far better than I know inches. The way they are used over here makes no sense other than perhaps as the recommended planting distance. Could totally be wrong, though. I actually have an order pending with them right now – glad to hear they are good! 🙂

  2. So elegant, rising from the foliage – lovely 🙂

  3. I love these flowers, but we seldom see them offered, probably because they aren’t well known or hardy here. And I agree, the perfume alone is worth growing them even if they weren’t so beautiful!

  4. I would love to smell the Peacock Orchid blooms too, they look elegant in the vase and the Purple Heart leaves pick up the purple centers and match the purple vase so well.

    • Thank you, Hannah. Don’t you love having fragrant flowers indoors when you catch their scent at odd moments? Such luxury to have these right outside the door. Thank you for visiting today 😉 WG

  5. I have learnt two new names for acidanthera by reading this post. I planted bulbs at my allotment this spring and cut the first two flowers last Monday and posted my vase which I was delighted with. But, the flowers did not last in water I found. What is your secret I wonder? I will let the foliage die back completely, mulch well through the winter and fingers crossed I may get a second blooming next year. They are such an elegant flower though and I adore their scent so perhaps I should forgive their short life.

    • What agricultural Zone are you growing in? If you get very cold winters, you may have more luck by digging the bulbs and replanting. If you mixed your Acidanthera with other stems, it may have affected their staying power. When you have another stem, you might try it alone in a vase of water, in the shade, to see whether it lasts longer for you. Best of luck to you in both prolonging their bloom, and in getting a second season from your bulbs 😉 Thank you for visiting today, WG

  6. I love these lilies – so elegant!

  7. How pretty. I love Acidanthera and they smell so wonderful. I can never get them to bloom again the following year though. I wish I knew the secret.

    • That is interesting, Chloris. Like with any bulb, the secret of the following year’s bloom is probably in the previous year’s foliage. It may be that you need to dig and store the bulbs, or give additional mulch. Ours sometimes return, but it is somewhat unreliable.

  8. Elegant is right! The purple heart is the perfect accent to tie in the pretty purple jug.

  9. How elegant your arrangement looks. I have not come across Peacock Orchids before, and they are lovely! The purple of the tradescantia gives a lovely contrast.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments. These bulbs aren’t well known, but are so easy to grow. I hope they become more popular with gardeners. They do equally well in a pot or in the ground, but need support. Thank you for visiting Forest Garden today 😉 WG

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