46 Gloriosa superbaCommon Names: glory lily, gloriosa lily, tiger claw Family: Liliaceae (lily Family)
A most unusual and exotic flower, the gloriosa lily is a crimson and yellow vision to behold. In bud, the pale green petals face downward. As the blossom matures, the petals elongate and wrinkle and gradually arch backward while sequencing through a spectrum of color from green to yellow to scarlet. The stamens are extremely prominent and spread outward in graceful curves that follow the petals in their backward progression. Depending on the cultivar, the flower is 3-5 in (7.6-12.7 cm) in length. It is the bizarre shape of the flower along with the its vivid colors that make one gasp at first encounter - and then make you want one.
Other aspects of the plant are also unusual for a member of the lily family. For unlike most lilies, it is a twining vine that is able to grasp with tendrils formed at the tips of the leaves. These are bright green and lance shape, 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm) long. It's fascinating to watch a leaf tip elongate into a slender tendril that coils around nearby supports to get a grip (just like a grape vine tendril only it's a leaf!) The gloriosa lily vine grows fast in warm weather, blooms, then dies down to the ground. After a spell, another vine emerges from the tuberous root. There are a several cultivars of Gloriosa superba with 'Rothchildiana' being the most frequently encountered (at least here in Florida where I live). There is an all yellow flowered variety 'Lutea', 'Citrina' is yellow with dark red markings and there's a dwarf called 'Nana'. This is a fabulously showy species and I'd like to have at least one of each.
Native to tropical jungles of Africa. Related species are found in Asia.
CultureLikes moist but well drained, rough, rich soil. Lots of leaf mold and decomposing bark is ideal. Once established, the vine responds well to feeding. The tuber seems to like being dug up a few weeks after a vine has died and moved to a different location. Light: Sun to part sun. Moisture: Moist but well drained. Container grown plants should be kept dry in winter when the plant is dormant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Can be grown in warmer areas of Zone 8 where it is killed to the ground by freezes but it usually recovers in spring if roots are protected with a thick layer of mulch. Propagation: Offsets (new plants at the base of an existing vine) or divisions of tuber. Plant tubers on their sides about 3 in (7.6 cm) deep.
The gloriosa lily is at its most dramatic when it seems to bloom out of some other plant. For example, any green shrub can provide support, so gloriosa lily flowers can appear out of a viburnum hedge! The vine is weak and sparse standing alone, so is best combined with something else, be it another vine on a trellis, a shrub, or a fence along with morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor), loofah (Luffa aegyptiaca), or practically anything strong enough to support it. This is also a popular plant for providing color in greenhouses and conservatories (it needs bright light and a humid atmosphere if grown indoors).
Even immature flowers are beautiful to behold. For such an exotic plant the gloriosa is very easy to grow and is a real survivor. I planted one behind the shed ten years ago and have never taken good care of it yet each year it manages a few blooms (of course if I fed and watered it I'd be rewarded with dozens of flowers). This year I intend to pamper it!
Jack Scheper 12/08/97 - updated 1/02/99, 11/03/01, 5/14/04, 6/3/08