Albuca namaquensis (Spiral Grass)
Albuca namaquensis Baker
Albuca ausensis, Albuca avasimontana, Albuca circinata, Dipcadi ausense, Dipcadi avasimontanum, Ornithogalum namaquense
Albuca namaquensis is a small geophyte, up to 1 foot (30 cm) tall, with deciduous, curly leaves and tall bloom stalks with pale yellow flowers. Leaves are rough or hairy or smooth. If hairs are present, they are not glandular. In dry and sunny conditions, its leaves coil like Albuca spiralis, and thus these plants are often mistakenly called A. spiralis. In cultivation, the leaves may remain evergreen if the water is available.
USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Albucas require sandy, loose soil in full to partial sun to produce their characteristic blooms. The plants can grow 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) tall with a slightly smaller width. Good cultivation encourages the removal of the bulb from the outdoors in zones with frost. They are not frost-hardy, and cold temperatures can damage the bulb.
These South African natives look particularly attractive in rock gardens, slopes, and even containers. The biggest requirement for Albuca care is superior drainage. The regions to which they are native are not known for consistent moisture, which means it is drought tolerant once established. Consistent watering at planting is necessary to mimic the rainy season, but after that, light watering is all that is necessary when caring for Albuca.
Fertilize Albucas annually at installation and in the early spring with good all-purpose bulb food. Cut back spent foliage after it yellows and begins to wilt.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Albuca.
Albuca namaquensis is native to stony sandstone slopes from Namibia to the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
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There are many forms of Albuca. These flowering plants all have similar flowers but can grow extremely varied forms of foliage dependent upon the variety. Albuca is also known as Soldier-in-the box and Slime lily. The latter is due to the slimy sap the plant exudes when broken or damaged. Despite the rather disgusting name, Albuca leaves and blooms are covered in downy hairs that emit a pleasant scent when touched and the flowers are simple and elegant.
Albuca was first collected in the 1800s and today there are 150 recognized species. Not all of these are in cultivation, but the varieties that are in cutivation make especially appealing and unique plants for the summer garden. Most specimens have white, green, or yellow drooping or erect flowers with three petals.
In their native region, Albuca blooms in late winter to early spring. In North America, these should be planted for spring to summer bloom times. Growing Albuca usually starts with seeds or bulbs. Seeds can take 3 years to produce flowers.
An interesting piece of Albuca information is its relation to common asparagus. Most species of Albuca have a dormant period where they lose their leaves after flowering.
Albuca Propagation – Tips On Caring For Spiral Grass Plants
In spite of their name, Albuca spiral grass plants are not true grasses in the family Poeaceae. These magical little plants spring from bulbs and are a unique specimen for containers or warm season gardens. As a South African plant, caring for spiral grass requires a little knowledge about their native region and the conditions in which the Albuca grows. With good care, you may even be rewarded with a spike of quirky dangling flowers. Learn the tricks on how to grow Albuca spiral grass so you can enjoy this personality laden plant.
How To Grow your Spiral Albuca Plant from Seed
Choosing your Compost/Potting Mix
A really important part of growing the Albuca, and pretty much all of the cacti and succulent families, is that the compost mix has got be free-draining. This means that water can flow into, and out of the growing medium easily. After many early disasters, I found the worst thing you can do to any succulent is to drown their roots and starve them of oxygen. In short, they will rot and die…..this is not what you want.
A perfect free-draining mix for these would be sold in your local Garden Centre as a Cacti compost or African Violet compost mix. These will have a high percentage of sand, gravel or vermiculite incorporated. Both of these composts are suitable, or you could check out my post on “Making the Best Potting Compost” which will be on the website soon with my own personal recipe. I make this en mass in a cement mixer, but not everyone will have one of them to hand, so a big bucket will do!
Choosing your Container
The seeds of your “Albuca spiralis” need to sown quite deep at around 5 – 8 cm in your specialised compost mix. Ensure you have adequate space in your pot for germination to take place and allow for further growing.
When and Where to Plant your Seeds
I would recommend planting your seeds at any point in the year and placing them outside in a cool spot with filtered sun light. At maturity, these plants are frost hardy to around -7 C, and for germination to take place, your seeds need to go through the cold winter to instigate germination.
Once germinated, transplant your seedlings to individual pots to grow on.
Flowers on a Single Stem
5 Things to Know About the Strange Spiral Grass Succulent Plant
The spiral grass plant is a bit of an oddity or almost alien in its appearance because of its snake-like coiling look. As its name says, it’s green, has a long spiral shape, and grass-like. However, don’t let that fool you because what you are looking at is a succulent plant. It is very resilient and a nice addition to your home garden.
These facts and other things about this peculiar plant shall be discussed further as we go along. Here are the 5 things you need to know about the spiral grass if you wish to add it to your collection:
1. It’s Not Grass
As mentioned above, the spiral grass is not grass, technically speaking. It’s only called that way because of its grass-like color, shape, and texture. The succulent starts from bulbs, and when they bloom, they produce the coiled leaves that usually grow up to one foot. The leaves are either rough, hairy, or smooth to the touch.
The scientific name of spiral grass is Albuca namaquensis. It belongs in the family of Asparagaceae, which consists of flowering plants with 114 genera and 2,900 known species, including the edible tender succulent, asparagus. Meanwhile, its subfamily is Scilloideae, which include hyacinths. This plant in the Albuca genus can easily be mistaken for the Albuca spiralis, commonly known as Corkscrew Albuca, because of its strong resemblance to it.
2. It Grows Flowers
Given the ideal conditions, the spiral grass will produce flowers. Over time, a thick stem grows with a huge bulb on top. Then it blossoms into a yellow-green flower that dangles at the tip of the succulent. Owners describe the refreshing smell of its flowers as something between butter and vanilla.
3. Ideal Environment
Albucas are native in South Africa so they can adapt better to warm climates, but they can also survive the cold. Based on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, the spiral grass can survive somewhere in the 9b and 11b scales. That means the succulent can withstand temperatures as low as 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Certain conditions must be met when taking care of the plant during the cold though, which will be discussed in the last part of this article. During spring, flowers will bloom from the bulbs of the spiral grass.
4. How to Propagate It
Spiral grass can be grown from seedlings produced from the flowers after pollination. Propagation through seeds can be hard though so the most preferred method so far is through division or bulbs from the mother plant.
5. Maintenance Tips
The spiral grass looks better in rock gardens where it is exposed to full or partial sunlight. If you happen to live in an area where the climate tends to get cold, it is recommended that you place it in a succulent pot or container so you can easily transfer it to an area at home where it is warmest during that period. Remember to prune the bulbs of the plant during the winter too because these are sensitive to cold and can easily be damaged by frost.
Like most succulents, spiral grass only requires consistent watering upon planting. When it matures though, only water it lightly when it already appears very dry. Use quick-draining soil and pot with drainage so that excess water can flow freely out of it. Excessive watering or stagnant water at the base of the pot may result in soft, mushy, and translucent leaves for the succulent, or worse, the whole plant may rot.