Rare, beautiful and robust, the beautiful blood flower with its magnificent flower balls is a true miracle of nature. Whether in the living room as an attractive houseplant or as an imposing bulb plant outdoors – blood flowers bring color and set unique accents. Even if the delightful plant from the amaryllis family is very short-lived with a flowering time of around 3 weeks, its fascinating appearance is impressive.
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Blood flowers belong to the large plant genus of the Heamanthus, which contains various species and are native to South Africa as wild-growing beauties except for the Haemanthus multiflorus, which is mainly found in the tropical region of East Africa. In this country, many of these beautiful onion plants are mainly used as house plants. But they can also be a real eye-catcher as an attractive container plant on the terrace or in the garden. Characterized by yellow, red or white flowers that protrude as imposing spherical heads from the striking broad leaves, some resemble shaving brushes in their appearance, while others in turn show a flower pattern made up of small asterisks.
The most notable species
- Haemanthus multiflorus: is a multi-flowered plant that already blooms in spring, but the strong leaves often only grow after flowering
- Haemanthus hybrids: These include the well-known “King Albert” variety, which is a cross between Haemanthus multiflorus and Haemanthus katherinae and is characterized by vigorous growth
- Haemanthus albiflos (elephant’s ear): the rather rare plant impresses with its decorative flowers and evergreen leaves, during the flowering period from July to October it presents white stamens with yellow anthers that rise above large white-green leaves
- Haemanthus katherinae: The stylish blood flower with a flowering time from July to August is a definite summer bloomer, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of its kind. Because the distinctive plant reaches a height of 35 cm to 50 cm and has chimney-red, thread-like flowers in dense umbels whose diameter can be 15 to 20 cm, which are arranged in a star shape. In addition, it has broad, fleshy leaves in the form of a high shaft that can be up to 30 cm long. The Haemanthus Katherinae also has a peculiarity because with this unique plant the inflorescence appears at the same time as the leaves. The blood flower got its unusual name because red sap escapes when injured.
The Haemanthus katherinae feels just as comfortable on the windowsill in the living area as with proper care on a sheltered terrace, the winter garden or as a remarkable container plant in the garden.
Location – this is how blood flowers thrive
So that the sensitive beauty can unfold its full splendor, the blood flower makes some demands on its location:
- very bright and warm, especially in the growth phase
- but no direct sunlight
- preferably on the west or east window
- at the south window only if there is shade at lunchtime through blinds, blinds or awnings
- older plants can also find their place outdoors without hesitation
From April to June in the growing season, the temperature for blood flowers should be around 20 degrees. In autumn, when the rest period begins, the plants feel most comfortable at 12 to a maximum of 15 degrees.
Proper watering otherwise there is a risk of onion rot!
Blood flowers need abundant and regular water in spring and summer, but they do not tolerate waterlogging, otherwise the bulb of the plant will begin to rot.
- The surface of the soil should be dried before watering again
- Check the base half an hour after watering
- if any water has accumulated, empty it immediately
- Water gradually less from September onwards
- Reduce the water requirement again during the rest period
- but do not let the substrate dry out completely
- add more moisture from spring onwards
Fertilizing – makes for splendid specimens
Therefore, the blood flower should be given a liquid fertilizer rich in potash every two weeks from March to the end of July during growth. In the main growing season, iron and magnesium can also be administered because then not only does a fascinating flower develop, but also strong dark green leaves.
The impressive Haemanthus katherinae thrives excellently in loose, humus soil with a pH value of around 6. Compost-based potting soil is just as suitable as conventional soil with a clay component. If a finished substrate is used, it should ideally be topped up with organic fertilizers such as horn shavings or compost.
In general, the blood flower can be propagated by growing it from seeds or dividing it.
When divided, propagation takes place from small bulbs that form on the mother plant in March and are carefully separated in spring when they have reached a pot size of 40 cm or when the roots are already protruding from the earth. Then the young plants are carefully placed in the ground. But only strong shoots should be selected as only these start to bloom. Caution! When replanting or repotting, special attention must be paid to the roots so that they are not damaged. Every now and then (approx. 3 to 4 times) the blood flower should be repotted in larger containers, but only when there is insufficient space, as young plants develop better if their growth is not disturbed.
Even if the Haemanthus katherinae can be propagated by seeds, this process turns out to be quite tedious. However, the flowers reliably set seeds that ripen unevenly from the beginning of February and slowly turn from yellow to orange. If the seed begins to turn yellow, it is carefully freed from its fleshy shell, which at this stage can be compared to a small onion that sprouts when stored in a warm place. Proceed as follows for successful propagation by sowing:
- Place about 20 pieces of the pea-sized kernels in a 10cm large pot filled with sand
- moisten moderately
- and cover with foil
- set up at up to 20 degrees in a bright place
- the seeds germinate after a relatively short time
- do not isolate
- keep drier in winter
- the young plants can also find their place in the room in the sand for a few years
- cultivated without a break
The following peculiarities can occur
With some seedlings the leaf green can fall out, so there will only be a small increase over the entire season. However, a very strong growth spurt can then take place in spring, so that the plant grows up to twice its size. Seedlings that do without this process usually help a break of 4 weeks with the result that a noticeable growth spurt is then also recorded with these.
The planter should not be too large for the blood flower. It is therefore advisable to use a container in which the distance from the onion to the edge is 3 to 4 cm. If the Haemanthus katherinae has reached the edge of the pot or the roots are already protruding from the substrate, the aesthetic plant should be repotted. The best time to do this is between February and March. It is also advisable not to cover the bulbs completely with soil before the new shoot begins and, if necessary, only to renew the top layer of soil when repotting so that the roots of the blood flower can be spared.
Special recommendation: If several Haemanthus katherinae plants are planted in a correspondingly large container, the many red flowers are particularly eye-catching. The blood flower during dormancy in winter
- do not let it dry out
- Pour only moderately
- good overwintering possible thanks to fleshy rhizomes (this property is also used by the plant in dry seasons)
- ideal temperature of 12 to 15 degrees
- not cooler as the plant is very sensitive to frost and cold
- therefore choose a basement, attic or a room that is not used as winter quarters
Pests and diseases
If the blood flower has been watered too much, the bulbs will begin to rot and the plant will be beyond salvation. If the impressive plant found its place in rooms with too low or too high humidity, reddish spots appear on the leaves, which indicate a fungal disease. Because then it is the so-called red burner, which should be treated with a copper preparation. To do this, the plant is sprayed with a commercially available product and given a new location.
If the enchanting plant finds a place in the garden during the warm season, watch out for snails, as they are considered to be animals’ favorite food.
Dust bugs, which are also known as mealy bugs, often infest the blood flower and like to attach themselves to the leaf sheaths of the lower leaves. These white, small webs, which are reminiscent of cotton balls, secrete honeydew as a waste product, which in turn can lead to infestation with sooty fungus. Here, too, you should immediately choose a different location for the blood flower and, above all, isolate it from other plants as the pests can spread quickly. For the successful treatment of uninvited guests, a plant protection product based on neem oil is particularly suitable and extremely effective. Alternatively, the pests can be combated with systemically acting agents, which are offered as granules, sticks, sticks and as a spray. These include, for example, the insecticides dimethoate, Thiacloprid and imidacloprid. Purely biological control is also possible with the larva of the Australian ladybird (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri).
The blood flower, Haemanthus Katherinae is a breathtakingly beautiful houseplant with dreamlike, red, thread-shaped and graceful flower balls that extend over the broad, fleshy, lush green leaves. The imposing bulb plant from the amaryllis family is not yet very well known and has a special feature. Because the Haemanthus katherinae shows all its splendor only 3 weeks a year, but all the more splendidly. The perennial, not hardy plant loves bright, warm locations and takes a strict rest period in winter.