Valentine flower - The Crocosmia Aurea

As one of the pretty members of the iris family, the Crocosmia aurea is also known as the valentine flower or falling stars. Its name can be translated to “saffron odour” in reference to the saffron-like smell that the dried leaves give off when they are put in hot water. “Aurea” refers to the glorious orange vibrancy of the flowers.

Did you know? South Africa is home to more than 22 000 indigenous seed plants from almost 230 different families.

The beautifully bright orange blooms of the Crocosmia aurea characterise this popular plant. When flowering, it is hard not to admire the burst of vivacious colour, set off by the soft, wide sharp-tipped leaves.

The flowers reach a diameter of about four centimetres, and the seeds are shiny and black-purple. The plant reaches an average height of about 1.2 metres. The capsule-type fruit contains shiny black seeds.

Flowering time

The Crocosmia aurea flowers during the summer months, and is dormant in the winter. The flowers and fruit capsules retain their beautiful colour for a long time, making for great additions to vases and displays.

Use in the garden

The seeds of the Crocosmia aurea are a favourite amongst birds. Therefore, including this plant in your garden will attract a host of colourful, chirpy members of the avian variety, as well as bees and butterflies. In addition, this plant has been used in African traditional medicine to treat dysentery.

Natural distribution

Naturally, the Crocosmia aurea can be found through the plains of the Cape Floristic Region; as well as in the provinces of Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. Its distribution also stretches into the neighbouring countries of Mozambique, and Malawi.

Growing Crocosmia aurea in your garden

This plant tends to prefer shady areas; usually in forests or along river banks, where conditions are moist. It does well in shade, semi-shade and dappled shade, and prefers to have a protective canopy (formed, for example, by forest trees).

Crocosmia is a showy plant that looks great with fine-textured groundcovers. It requires some control to avoid its becoming invasive. During summer, water your Crocosmia aurea well.

Propagation

In addition to propagating Crocosmia aurea by seed, it can also be grown by splitting the large corm clumps. When grown from seed, the seeds should be kept in a warm environment until the plant has been established. From then, it can be moved and will take about two years before the first flowers appear.

Corms should be planted about four centimetres deep in the soil. They should be grown in groups and are best planted in August and September.

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