Forest lily - The Veltheimia Bracteata

Veltheimia bracteata is part of the Hyacinthaceae family and is sometimes better known as winter red hot poker or forest lily. This genus is comprised of only two species, the other being Veltheimia capensis. They were named after the German patron of botany, August Ferdinand Graf von Veltheim.

Did you know? Veltheimia bracteata is better known as winter red hot poker or forest lily.

The pretty Veltheimia bracteata is a deciduous bulb that is characterised by the burst of colour at the top of each stem, thanks to its vibrant inflorescences. These floral clusters differ in colour and can be pale pink, dusty pink, a deep crimson or a shade that is distinctly orange-pink. Rare species produce a green-yellow bloom.

Flowering time

The Veltheimia bracteata is a winter plant, flowering from the late winter months (around July) through to early spring (October). During the hot summer months, the plant dies back in wait for the next season. Each magnificent flower head is in impressive bloom for approximately one month.

Use in the garden

The Veltheimia bracteata is pollinated by birds. So, this plant attracts a host of delightful members of the avian species to visit your garden and grace it with song and colour. It has no confirmed medicinal uses, despite its having been used as a purgative in the 17th century by those settling in South Africa.

Natural distribution

The lovely colours of the Veltheimia bracteata are often found bedecking the landscapes of the Eastern Cape’s forested areas as well as amongst the coastal scrub vegetation. Internationally, they also grow naturally in south-west Asia and the Mediterranean.

Growing Veltheimia bracteata in your garden

This species of Hyacinthaceae does well in shade gardens or in area with semi-shade. It requires well-drained soil that is neutral to acidic in pH and rich in humus. They do well in areas of high rainfall, or with plenty of watering. In these conditions, they should remain evergreen.

A liquid fertiliser during the winter and early spring will go a long way in prolonging the life of the flower. Bulbs should be planted in the early autumn and then left for the next few years as they establish themselves. Slugs, snails and caterpillars can be problematic to the Veltheimia bracteata and should be kept away from the plant. It does well in pots and containers too.


The seeds of the Veltheimia bracteata are stored in long, inflated capsules on the plant. When these pods become dry, the seeds can be harvested. They can be sown in autumn and fed diluted liquid fertiliser every two weeks once they have germinated.

When planting the bulb, it should be left just below the level of the ground for several years, undisturbed. It is also successfully propagated by leaf cuttings and offsets. The latter should be removed during the plant’s dormant state, which is in summer. This is likely to require that the bulbs be lifted in the soil every two to three years to allow for you to access the offsets.

Leaves of well-established plants can be planted in a sandy soil. Soon, tiny bulbs will form at the leaf base.

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