Thursday, May 19, 2011

Plant profile: Aristea capitata (syn. A. major)

Newsflash: It's flowering now for the first time! This African plant sports iris-like sword-shaped leaves year round, but the bright blue flowers only appear in spring, and though we've had the plant since it was a wee 4" pot, it's finally rewarded our care.

Latin name: Aristea capitata ("ah-RIST-ee-ah cap-ee-TA-ta") syn. A. major
Common name: Blousuurkanol, Blue Sceptre
Originally from: the Cape of Africa.
Blooms: Gentian blue spikes of flowers rise  above the clump each spring to about 4' high.
Light: Full sun, part sun.
Water: Rain is plenty. Little summer water, though good water-retaining soil helps
Where to find in P. Garden: the middle back bed has a clump.

In the genus Aristea there are approximately 55 species distributed throughout Africa and Madagascar, most of them with brilliant blue flowers, a few with lilac or white flowers. Several are beautiful, but unfortunately not all of them are so easy to grow - they're not commonly found in cultivation, and you certainly won't get them at Home Despot. Aristea ecklonii is one species that can be found somewhat more often - looks like a giant Sisyrinchium.

We thought our specimen was a dud, but they do take several years to get comfy enough to flower. They don't love being divided, or moved, and the best way to propagate them is by seed. Hopefully our clump continues to spread.

UPDATE: the 5 year drought sadly killed this plant. In a place with a little more dampness it would likely thrive.

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