Monday, August 27, 2007
Leopard Lilly Takes Off
My little Ledebouria socialis has suddenly starting looking lush and it’s growing like crazy. I had it in the house for a couple of years, and it just didn’t look good, so I put it on the patio and sort of neglected it. Perhaps this unexpected growth has occurred because this plant is native to South Africa, a summer rainfall region, and our recent monsoon storms have brought higher humidity and rain.
The L. socialis is considered an herbaceous perennial as well as a borderline succulent. It has little aboveground bulbs with papery sheaths that protect the bulbs from drying out. The little bulbs will fatten up after watering, but it should be kept on the dry side, especially in winter. Commonly called Leopard Lilly or Silver Squill, this plant is in the Hyacinthaceae family. Previously classified in the Scilla genus, it's still sold under that name more often than not.
The L. socialis is popular because of its gray-green leaves and leopard-spotted leaf markings. There is a variety called L. socialis violacea that has more mottled leaves that are purple underneath. Both are equally popular and easy to get. Propagated by division, the bulbs are separated from the main plant and new plants started most any time of the year. It flowers in late winter, and the tiny greenish-white flowers grow from a stalk that shoots up from the growing tip.
Since this plant always remains small, it really should remain in a pot to do it justice. The old platitude, “out of sight, out of mind” is certainly true when it comes to tiny plants in large gardens. I’ve learned the hard way about losing track of small plants in my garden, only to discover them later, dead from neglect.