Botanical Name: Gloriosa superba
Origin: Gloriosa superba originates from tropical Africa and parts of India.
Height: Different varieties of the Glory Lily can grow to heights ranging from 40 cm (16 in) up to as much as 4 m (13 ft).
Soil: Glory Lilies should be planted in well-draining peat moss potting mixes.
Light: This house plant requires lots of bright, but indirect light in order to bloom.
Humidity: Gloriosa superba plants need moderate to high levels of humidity. Levels can be raised using humidity trays and/ or by misting the plants' foliage.
Temperatures: Being a tropical plant, Gloriosa superba requires average temperatures of 16 to 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F) to thrive.
Water: During the Glory Lily's growing season (spring/ summer), the potting mix must be kept evenly moistened at all times. It is, however, vital to prevent it from getting soggy, as this will cause the plant's tuber to rot.
Fertiliser: Dilute a high potassium fertiliser (liquid) by half and feed every 14 to 21 days during the growing season.
Propagation: Sow Glory Lily seeds in spring or propagate this house plant by dividing tuber offsets (typically forming during the plant's growing season).
Description and Care Tips
The perennial Gloriosa superba is a vigorously climbing evergreen vine belonging to the Colchicaceae family, a member of the Liliaceae clan. Growing in open woodland, as well as along roads and cultivated land margins in its native habitat of India and eastern Africa, this incredible plant typically features climbing stems that can get several metres long and have narrow oval, often lanceolate, alternate leaves. The tips of these leaves are typically tipped with tendrils that are short, but very efficient.
In reality, however, there is very little that is typical about this unique and certainly variable plant. Gloriosa superba may be climbing or erect; leaves may be narrow or broad, oval or linear and tipped with tendrils or without. What's more, a single plant may look different with each new growing season.
The flowers show an equally bewildering diversity. Colours vary from single or bi-colour shades of yellow, fiery oranges and/ or red to crimson, scarlet and/or purple. The margins of the petals may also be more or less (or not at all) undulated.
As a result of these differences, the plant is known under a range of synonyms, including Gloriosa lutea, Gloriosa rothschildiana and Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'. Often marketed as different species, they are, in fact, all variations of the same species.
What all of these variations have in common is that watching the buds - which start out as insignificant looking, pale green and modestly hanging heads - develop is a joy to behold. When the petals start opening and gently flexing outwards, a pink blush appears, and their margins may start to curl and crimp (I guess whether they do depends on the mood the plant is in at the time).
Gradually rising higher, the blooms then climax in what can only be described as a glorious, flaming corona of colour - set above radiating stars of golden pollen tipped stamens and sweeping to one side as though they were deliberately bent at their base.
In spite of the fact that the Glory Lily is highly toxic (see Wise Owl's Nuggets of Knowledge), it is an extremely popular house plant and - given that care is taken when handling it - can be grown and cared for easily.
Best started off in spring, the tubers should be handled with great care not only because they are the plant's most toxic part, but also because they are very brittle and can break easily. They should be planted - at a depth of approximately 8 cm (3 in) - horizontally in rich, freely draining potting mix contained within a reasonably sized pot (this is important, as limited space will result in downward growth, producing more tubers, rather than flowering plants).
Once shoots begin to emerge, regular watering and fertilising are vital in order to keep the plant happy and encourage flowering. It may also be necessary to provide support for the Glory Lily's wispy tendrils.
Well looked after Gloriosa superba plants will produce flowers throughout the summer months, followed by the appearance of oval, fairly large seed pods. If allowed to dry while still on the plant, the seeds can then be gathered and kept dry until the next spring.
To use them, they should be soaked for 24 hours (in tepid water), after which the flesh should be removed before sowing them approximately 2 cm (just over 1/2 in) deep in quality seed compost. Kept at a constant temperature of 20 to 25 degrees C (68 to 77 degrees F), the slow-germinating seeds should produce seedlings after around four months, although germination may take longer, so patience is required).
Dead-heading spent flowers will, by the way, encourage new blooms. Once flowering has finished, seeds have been gathered and the foliage has died back naturally, withered stems should be cut off before storing the tubers in a cool (16 degrees C/ 60 degrees F), dry place until spring, when they can be divided (while still dormant) and planted again.