Rhodohypoxis - Plants of Mountains and Gardens Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Rhodohypoxis - Plants of Mountains and Gardens

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There are six species of Rhodohypoxis, and they originated in the Drakensberg Mountains of southern Africa. Despite the somewhat daunting name, these small plants are very attractive, having blade-like leaves and pink or white flowers. The striking feature of most of these plants is that the flowers appear to have no centre, because the petals are arranged in such a way that they hide the reproductive systems.

The Species

The most common species is Rhodohypoxis baurii. There are many varieties of this type available in cultivation and they can quite often be found for sale in garden centres, in the alpine plant section. The flowers may be any colour from white to deep pink. The flowers generally have six petals, although there are double and semi-double varieties with up to 12 petals. The leaves are thin, grey-green, grooved spikes covered in soft hairs that catch and retain moisture from the air.

Plants in this species can grow up to 10cm (4in) in height. They have an active growing season in spring, then they flower through spring and summer (removing the faded flowers encourages more to grow). In late summer the leaves start to die down, and there is a dormant period in winter when the plants cannot be seen above the ground.

Rhodohypoxis milloides is the tallest species, growing up to 15cm (6in) high. During the growing season it has bright green leaves and deep pink flowers that continue to be produced until late summer. It can occasionally be found in garden centres, but is readily available from specialist nurseries and plant fairs.

Rhodohypoxis deflexa grows to about 7.5cm (3in) high and has pale pink flowers. It can occasionally be found in garden centres, but is available from specialist growers.

Rhodohypoxis thodiana is small, being less than 5cm (2in) in height, with dark green leaves. White flowers are produced from early spring through to early summer. It is available from specialist nurseries.

Rhodohypoxis incompta is rare and is found close to the summits of the Drakensberg Mountains. They are small, growing to a maximum of 5cm (2in), but have relatively large pink flowers that appear in winter, before the leaves grow.

Rhodohypoxis rubella is rare, and is found at the summits of the Drakensberg Mountains (up to 3,300m above sea level) - these plants only grow about 3cm (11½in) in height and the leaves are very thin. They also flower in winter, before the leaves appear, and the flowers are small and pale pink.

Growing Conditions

Given their mountainous heritage, these plants require similar conditions to succeed in a garden setting. Planted in well-drained soil1 in sun or partial shade2, they can withstand a range of temperatures, but they need to be well watered in spring/summer and require dry conditions in winter.

Rhodohypoxis baurii is fairly hardy, and can survive a winter outdoors in the UK provided the ground is dry enough to prevent the tubers from rotting. For added security, you could grow the plants in pots and then move them into a cool greenhouse or cold frame in winter to protect them from frost and damp.


If you like Rhodohypoxis and it likes your garden, you can get more plants in three different ways.

Although the stamens and styles of the reproductive system are not always visible, they are present in the flowers. If the flowers are cross-pollinated by a small insect, or a human with a small paintbrush, a few seeds will form at the base of each flower. If these are harvested in autumn and sown in spring, new leaves will form within two months, and the plant will flower two years later.

If you don't mind more of the same, rather than the surprise variation that cross-pollination can produce (or you don't want to wait two years for more flowers) there are two options. You can dig up the tubers during the dormant period, split them apart and plant them in different places, keeping them dry ready for regrowth in spring. Alternatively, you can dig up the plant during the growing period, separate the leaves into clumps according to which tuber they are attached to, and plant each clump in a different place. Water them thoroughly after replanting. They should then settle in and continue growing and flowering well.

1Add some grit or sand to the compost in the pot or planting hole if necessary.2This Researcher's Rhodohypoxis baurii enjoys morning sun and afternoon shade.

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