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Majestic Himalayan Giant Worth the Wait

This article was first published on 21 Feb 2014.

Cardiocrinum giganteum

Cardiocrinum giganteum

The majestic giant Himalayan lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum and its varieties thrives in the lower botanic garden.  See it in the woodland camellia borders and dry shade theme border. It is a bulb which takes about 5 to 7 years to develop from seed to flowering and absolutely worth every minute of the wait.

In the first years of life the bulb produces a rosette of increasingly large, luxuriant heart-shaped leaves during the spring and summer.  Once mature, it utilises all its stored energy and during mid-summer the dramatic show begins. 

By now the bulb has grown to a diameter of at least 20cm.  The tree-like flower spike shoots rapidly up and can reach over 2 to 3m.  A mass of fragrant creamy-white or green trumpet-shaped flowers, internally streaked with red or purple-red, unfold from the long stem.  It also emits a rich and heady perfume.

This plant provides all the atmosphere of a lush tropical garden but because it comes from the Himalayas is hardy enough to cope with Dunedin’s coldest days.

After flowering it produces large quantities of viable seed. If you want to stop it from self-seeding, remove the dry flower stalk before the mature fruits split open to scatter seed on the breeze.  It's a shame because the seeds drift down on the air currents with a rather elegant flutter.

Marianne Groothuis is the camellia and theme garden collection curator at the Dunedin Botanic Garden.