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Shy Poor Knights lily

I HAVE a Xeronema callistemon which is a number of years old, but has never flowered. I need to do something very soon or it will break out of the pot. I realise Taupo can be off-putting, but I keep it at the back door where it has all day sun.


THE Poor Knights lily can take many years to come into flower - and even then it can be rather temperamental, with a mass of flowers one year, followed by few or no blooms the next.

In their natural habitat on the Poor Knights and Hen and Chickens Islands, they grow in small pockets of soil among rocks around the coast, exposed to full sun, wind and salt spray. The soil there is quite impoverished, low in nutrients, very free-draining and at times quite dry. So for best results in our gardens, we need to try to recreate these conditions.

Leave your plant to get pot bound - don't be tempted to repot it. I've seen specimens so tightly root-bound the plant is bulging way over the top of the pot, but flowering beautifully. If necessary, put it into a strong pot that won't split under root pressure. Don't fertilise unless it looks exceptionally starved, as feeding encourages vegetative growth at the expense of flowers, and too much fertiliser can cause leaf tip burn. Expose it to as much sun as possible and allow it to dry out somewhat before watering. Take care to protect it from frost - and be patient!

Weekend Gardener, Issue 130, 2003, Page 26

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener

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