Gloriosa (Flame Lily)

Gloriosa is a fairly small plant genus, consisting of 12 different species in the Colchicaceae plant family, which is also home to cyclamen and other woodland plants.

These plants are famed for their gorgeous flowers which look like lilies, and the ruffled appearance of each petal curing in on itself looks as though it’s on fire, hence the name flame lily.

The appearance of the flowers has cemented their popularity, and they are grown all over the world for the stunning displays they put on from spring onwards.

Gloriosa At A Glance

These fantastic plants bloom from spring well into fall, and are grown ornamentally all over the world.

While they are perennials, they hail from tropical and South Africa and Asia, so in cooler climates they’re treated as half-hardy annuals, where they are only planted out when all risk of frost is gone.

These stunning plants are extremely easy to grow, and will spread quickly, so you must keep on top of them.

It has naturalized in many warm parts of the world, which has meant that it is classed as an invasive species in different countries, including the Pacific Islands, Australia, and the US.

It’s worth checking if your local authority classes it similarly before you plant it, overwise you may risk getting into trouble you could have avoided!

A Note On Toxicity

It’s worth mentioning that this plant is highly dangerous, and full of toxins. Every part of the plant contains colchicine, which is a harmful alkaloid that can play havoc with your nervous system.

If ingested, signs of poisoning include feeling as though you’re being suffocated, tiredness, feeling numb, vomiting, struggling to breathe, and kidney failure.

But you don’t have to eat it to be affected. Just coming into contact with sap of the plant with your bare skin causes rashes and irritation, so always protect your skin and wear gloves when you handle this plant.

Gloriosa Name Origin

The genus name comes from Latin for glorious, gloriosus, which describes the stunning flowers perfectly, really.

The common name, flame lily, applies to most species within the genus, referring to the bold warm colors and ruffled flowers that look like they are on fire.

Flame Lily Symbolism

Gloriosa flowers represent beauty, pride, desire, honor, and glory, all of those things which can inspire a ‘fire’ within us.

The flame lily is also the national flower of Zimbabwe, where it is protected. In Zimbabwe, it is illegal to harvest flame lilies or otherwise damage or have the plants unless you have a permit.

Gloriosa Uses

In traditional medicine, plants in the gloriosa genus have many applications. 

They have been used to treat snakebites, colic, internal parasites, arthritis, skin complaints such as acne, ulcers, and general irritation, cholera, typhus, and cancer.

In terms of ornamental use, these plants look stunning in any garden, but they are particularly popular as cut flowers for their unique shape and colors. 

Perhaps the most well-known plant in this genus is Gloriosa superba, which roughly translates from Latin to mean glorious magnificent, describing the unique flowers.

You may know it as the flame lily, the superb lily, or the glory lily. 

This plant requires plenty of drainage and nutrients in the soil, either in full sun or dappled shade. 

The growth habit is adaptable, either growing upright or across the ground, and the plant itself can reach 12 feet tall.

Each leaf has a modified tip, which has a tendril that the plant can use to anchor itself to vertical surfaces.

The flowers are the star of this plant, consisting of six tepals which curve inward, in shades of yellow and red, though they may also be pink, orange, or purple, too.

Gloriosa Growing Requirements

Gloriosa plants are hardy in USDA zones 8 through to 11. If you live somewhere colder, you can treat these tender perennials as half-hardy annual plants, only bringing them outside when the frost has finished.

They will provide a spectacular show in spring, summer, and fall, needing full sunlight to produce the most flowers, typically in shades of red and yellow, but you can get varieties which are single colors, too.

Most gloriosa species reach an average height of 10 feet, but some species can reach much further, and require upright support in order to do so. 

Some varieties are much more compact, and are suitable for smaller gardens, even in containers.

Gloriosa plants require well-draining soil which stays damp most of the time.

While they can live in alkaline or neutral soil without a problem, one thing they cannot stand is highly acidic soil, so keep this in mind.

Gloriosa lilies will grow in a sunny site or partial shade, and only require an average amount of water.

They do require some maintenance, however, to stop them getting too vigorous.

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