The glory lily
By Ralph E. Mitchell
When I first saw the flower of the Gloriosa lily as a child, it reminded me of an alien spacecraft burning up in the atmosphere. The flamelike flower petals arch in a fiery freezeframe of color. Amazing easy to grow, the glory lily is a vine in the lily family – a very curious plant indeed!
The glory lily is a native to tropical Africa. As a lily, it is unusual that it grows as a vine complete with leaves that have a slender tip which grasps and twines itself` to supports. It is a fast grower developing from an underground tuber. The vines are fast-growing and can climb upwards to eight feet tall. After an initial vine and flowering, this dies back and a second flush of growth emerges and a second set of flowers. The flowers are fairly large and grow up to five inches wide. The opening bud is green with some pale yellow and red. As the flower opens, the color intensifies until the petals flare followed by the yellow stamens. The more you examine the petals, the more you think you are staring into a frozen flame. While the most common cultivar is called ‘Rothchildiana’, I have seen a yellow type called ‘Lutea’ and there is a yellow with dark red coloration called ‘Citrina’. The literature also indicates that there is a dwarf type amply named ‘Nana’.
While I have not seen the tubers for sale locally, they are normally available through bulb companies on-line or in catalogs. Plant the tubers about three inches deep. They are perfectly hardy here, but will dieback for winter dormancy. I have grown them in large containers which I set near a suitable support and let them take off. Otherwise a trellis, fence of even a temporary support will suffice. Plant glory lilies in full sun to part shade in well-drained rich soil.
As with many ornamental plants – the glory lily is poisonous, so keep this in consideration with children and pets and exercise due diligence. Otherwise, enjoy this unique vine in season ! For information on all types of vines suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.
Scheper, J. (2008) Gloriosa superba. Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL
Park Brown, S. & Knox, G. W. (2016) Flowering Vines for Florida. The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.