by Melody Kendall
The leaves of the cape balsam are thick and fleshy, well adapted to store water. There are two colors of cape balsam flowers: yellow and orange. The plant cutting that I took on that fateful day was the orange variety of bulbine. The orange has longer thinner leaves than the yellow variety that look more grass like and tend to stay in a globular shape with the flowers growing throughout the globe. The yellow has thicker, fleshier leaves that grow in clumps and the flowers tend to originate around the circumference of this irregular plant mass. Both types add great interest in the garden with their 3+ foot wide spreading green shapes, the interesting succulent-like leaves and the 12” to 15” thin stalks displaying small orange or yellow blossoms on the ends. Needing little water once established, these evergreen native perennials from South Africa are hardy down to 25 degrees F and can take multiple hardships in stride while still providing volumes of pollinator friendly blooms. Enjoying full sun but doing quite nicely, thank you, in mostly shade, the bulbine blooms from early spring through late fall and only requires removal of spent flower stalks to neaten their appearance. The flowers also work well in flower arrangements.
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Photo credits: Mel Kendall
UC Davis arboretumYellow https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant/cape-balsam