On Schizostylis, by Karen Brown

Visitors to the September garden frequently ask, “What is that plant with the red flowers? It looks sort of like a gladiolus, although smaller.” When I answer, “Schizostylis”, the next question is, “What did you say?”

The real question is how to spell it, and when you know that, how to pronounce it. Ask any Connie Hansen Garden volunteer and you’ll get a different answer every time. I say it so that it suggests a hairdresser with a mental problem. Schizo (phrenic) stylist. At the other end of the spectrum is “shi zosta lis” with the accent on “zosta,”or yet another variation, “shizz” (to rhyme with Ms) then “oh” “stylus”.

Regardless of how you say it, what really matters in the garden is that this lovely lily-like plant is very hardy, adapts well to many locations, and blooms in the fall with nice fresh blooms when everything else is fading away. Colors range from red through pink to white, with the red or coral-red being the most common. The blooms are held in spikes similar to those of gladiolus, and open a few at a time over a week or two.

The plant, which is native to South Africa, grows from a small rhizome and multiplies quickly into a nice clump. It easily tolerates wet feet at the edge of pond, but also grows in average soil with some summer watering, keeping company with shrubs and other perennials. It needs sun to bloom well, but will grow and bloom sparingly in the shade.

When the clumps become too crowded, blooming is sparse. You can divide clumps easily by digging them up and breaking the clump of roots apart into pieces containing several fans of leaves. The foliage looks very like that of iris and many other bulb plants, reaching about two feet high. Just enough foliage remains in winter to remind you of where it is planted. I have divided schizostylis at various times of year, and so long as it is kept moist, it begins to grow again right away.

This hardy plant can be hard to find in garden shops, but if you’re looking to add a little color to your fall garden, we’ll have established pots of schizostylis, along with unusual beardless iris varieties and a number of other choice plants, at our Fall Plant Sale, Saturday, September 20th from 10am - 2pm. Be warned, schizostylis tends to be a popular plant, so we recommend coming early if you’re interested in adding it to your landscaping..

No matter how you pronounce it, schizostylis is a very nice plant to include in your garden.

Happy Gardening!

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