Bugle Lily - The Watsonia

Sometimes known as the Bugle Lily, the Watsonia is from the Iridaceae family and boasts more than 50 accepted species within the borders of South Africa alone. It is no wonder that the Watsonia has been given its common name, as the flower has a distinctly bugle (or trumpet) shape to it.

Did you know? These perennial herbs grow from corms and reach a height of about two metres.

The gorgeous flower of the Watsonia can be pink, orange, white, or a pink-orange. They lend a colourful vibrance to the landscape, but remain elegant and unobtrusive. A group of spiky flowers is present towards the top of each stem. The strappy leaves grow in a fanlike arrangement below the blooms.

Flowering time

The garden and landscape will burst into colour with Watsonia blooms during the spring and early summer months (September to around January in South Africa). Prior to this, it endures a growth stage and, after flowering, will die back for the hottest time of the year (February and March). The flowers last for four or five weeks, making this a rewarding addition to the garden.

Use in the garden

Watsonias are pretty ornamental garden flowers that also make their way to vases and bouquets from time to time. They have not been shown to have any nutritive or medicinal value to humans, but remain popular for their aesthetic appeal.

Natural distribution

The Watsonia is often part of the fynbos biome, and can be found in areas in which fynbos flourishes (particularly the province of the Western Cape). It favours winter rainfall and plenty of sunshine, making the Western Cape landscapes ideal. It can be found on mountains, in marshes and on expansive sandy flats.

Growing Watsonia in your garden

This plant is easy to grow and requires very little in the way of care and maintenance.

Watsonias require plenty of sunshine and occasional watering for the best results, without having to worry about fertilisers and soil types (although a well draining soil and an organic fertiliser every now and then does yield even better results).

The bulbs should be planted between March and May, and then lifted the following January (as and when necessary, not every year). Between February and March, the Watsonia will need to rest.


The Watsonia can be grown by planting the corm. These corms should be given room, and not crowded. Once the flowering season is over, the leaves and stems should be cut back. Lift and divide the clumps every three years, or so.

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