Bloomin’ Update 62: The Glorious Gloriosa Lily


I’ve become a little bit obsessed with the Gloriosa Lily ever since I spotted it casually rambling over my friend Neil’s shrubs. The vining plant was so intertwined with the neighboring plants that it looked as if its exotic flowers were part of the shrubs. On top of that, the flowers last a very long time when cut and placed in a vase. Even the cut buds eventually open!

Neil shared some tubers with me, but for whatever reason, they never sprouted — at least not until the last set of tubers, that is. I planted them in a large pot on the patio and added a tuteur-style trellis — actually, a thrift store purchase that was once a floor-standing pyramid for a pillar candle. I placed a glass dome from an old ceiling fixture on top, where the candle should be, and use a battery-operated candle at night.

Once planted, I examined the pot each day for any sort of growth. A few times, I was even tempted to dig them up because nothing was happening — and just when I was about to surrender, the first sprout appeared, and others soon followed.

The stems climbed upward and I attached the curling leaf ends to one another — a sort of buddy system to support them as they continue up the tower. To date, the tendrils are doing an excellent job of keeping the plants secure, even on windy days.

By the time the plants reached the top of the trellis, the first bud appeared. My morning ritual then included an examination of the bloom for any changes. Heck, whenever I walked passed the pot, I studied the blossom and noticed how the seams appeared to pucker and ruffle.

Shortly thereafter, it looked like a lantern.

Within a few days, the seams of the blossom opened and the two-toned petals stretched outward and the stamens dangled downward. I think my heart skipped a few beats — but the show was just beginning.

By the following day, the ruffled petals had reached upward, taking on the appearance of one of its other common names: Flame Lily.

I refuse to cut off this first flower and to place it in a vase to be brought into the house. While that will eventually happen with other Gloriosa flowers — so I can enjoy my obsession while inside — I’m too excited to watch what this one does on the vine.

Besides, other buds are beginning to open and it looks as if flames are dancing on the tips of each stem. . .

. . . and that is oh, so glorious.

This cultivar is a tropical species, and despite its name, it isn’t true lily. Gloriosa Lily is a member of the Colchicaceae family and does well in zones 10 and higher. A winter mulch in zones 8 & 9 help it survive winter. In colder regions, the plant should be treated as an annual vine. Gloriosa Lily requires 6 – 8 hours of sunlight a day, as well as a trellis or wall for the leaves to grab onto. Plant the delicate tubers about 2” – 4” deep. As a houseplant, Gloriosa Lily requires a bright, sunny window and should be forced into dormancy (by withholding water) after it blooms. For more information, visit Wisconsin Master Gardener.