Have you heard of Ixia? It is a little flower bulb with flowers the size of a black bean, and it blooms in the spring just like freesias and daffodils. And just like daffodils and freesias the bulb multiplies over time to form a large clump of delicate flowers.
The flowers themselves are rather unusual. The leaves start off as tall slender blade like grass, with the flower buds at the tip of the grass. When they are in bloom, the flowers open up into little lima bean sized flowers all clustered together like pea pods. The flowers come in mostly white, pale yellow, and shades of purple.
I first discovered Ixia in the spring of 2010, when I was at one of our local nurseries Yamagami’s Nursery to purchase a few new plants. Yamagami’s Nursery had various pots on display with plants already planted in them, all arranged beautifully to give customers an idea of what one can do with pots. These tall little flowers were bouncing out of these pots and they caught my eye. They looked so perky and cheerful, and delicate and pretty.
I asked the nursery attendant if they had that plant for purchase. She informed me that they were spring flowering bulbs and are only available for purchase in the fall. She told me the flower is called Ixia and suggested I come back in the fall when they will have the bulbs for purchase again. I didn’t forget! I liked these little flowers so much I made it a point to mark it on my calendar and went back months later in September to purchase these little bulbs.
I have planted Ixia bulbs in a few of my pots, and they are blooming now in April like all my other spring bulb flowers. Over the years they have multiplied generously, almost overcrowding their original pots. This has given me a chance to divide the bulbs and plant them in new pots so I can have more Ixia blooms in the spring.
Guess what? Ixia is a native African flower just like freesias. Specifically it is native to South Africa, and it is also know as African corn lily or wand flower. According to multiple web sites that sell Ixia bulbs, they prefer well-drained soil and a hot sunny spot. I guess that makes sense given that they are native to the hot subcontinent of Africa. But I have found Ixia to do well in any conditions I plant them in – shady, sunny, in pots, and in the ground. Personally I prefer Ixia in pots, as they look like they are leaping out towards the sunlight. I did plant a few in the ground, but because they have very slim blade-like leaves and the flowers are dainty, they get lost in the landscape.
Ixia look fabulous in flower arrangements. I used them for bouquets I made for a Spring Tea get together, and they looked wonderful.
Next time you are in the nursery in the fall timeframe, take a look at the bulb section and see if you can find Ixia. You can also purchase these bulbs online. Ixia are wonderful, no fuss, small, hardy spring bulbs which will bloom and multiply over the years to provide a rather unexpected spring flower show.