Albuca spiralis (2003)

By Eric Driskill (October 2003)

Albuca spiralis is in the family Hyacinthaceae. Its natural habitat is South Africa in the Cape Province, where it grows on sandy flats. A. spiralis is a winter-growing bulb. But, finally, a bulb with different foliage.

The leaves of this fascinating species curl themselves up in a most extraordinary fashion to give the appearance of so many rather untidy coiled watch springs. Leaves are slender, fleshy, glossy green – and a conversation starter when anyone sees this plant for the first time. The foilage will grow in much tighter spirals if it is grown in fairly bright light.

The flower stalk of A. spiralis, an unbranched spike, grows to 6 inches, bearing small, pendulous, yellow-green flowers with green banding. A search of the Internet provided many beautiful pictures, as well as some dialogue among hobbyists about pollinating the flowers.

One grower stated that he removes an anther from one flower with forceps and rubs it on the stigma of a flower on another plant. Each flower has three anthers, and he uses one each day. By the fourth day, another flower opens and the process continues. He reported having luck with this method to obtain seed.

A. spiralis can be propagated by either seed or removing offsets/small blubs and potting them in the spring. Being a winter grower, A. spiralis needs to be kept fairly dry in the dormant season, and it will not tolerate frost.

Chuck Hanson of Arid Lands gave a lecture and plant sale at Mike Hellmann’s house in August. Those of you fortunate enough to attend may have seen several A. spiralis Chuck had for sale. The plants he was selling were a particularly nice cultivar with very tight spirals, nice healthy bulbs and reasonable prices.

Anyone should be able to grow this fascinating plant, as long as you remember to keep it dry when it is dormant.