Sparaxis, also known as wandflower or harlequin flower, are colorful members of the iris family with open star-shaped white, orange, lavender, yellow or pink flowers often centered with contrasting symmetrical patterns. The plants are ideal for Sunnyvale gardens as they are hardy to USDA zones 9 through 11 and in zones 7 and 8 with winter protection. In warm-winter zones, sparaxis should be planted in the fall. In USDA zones 4 through 6, plant them in spring.

Flowered: March 10 2016

Flowered: March 3 2017

Planting in Mediterranean Climates

Plant bulbs in late summer or early fall. Put them pointed side up 2 inches deep. In the garden, space them 4 inches apart. For containers, put them slightly closer together. A shallow pot of 4 inches deep is sufficient. Water the bulbs immediately, and cover the area with a layer of mulch. Water garden plants as needed, especially during the first six weeks after planting. During the growing season, supplement rainfall with irrigation if needed. Water container plants regularly. Since its native African home is a Mediterranean climate, sparaxis does well in Mediterranean climates around the world, including southern and coastal California. It is a favored bulb plant in the San Francisco area, in Los Angeles and has even naturalized along the central California coast.

Plant Characteristics

Sparaxis are adapted for areas where there are fall, winter and spring rains and dry, hot summers. After they bloom, the foliage dies down and the bulb goes dormant until the next growing season — fall in warm-winter climates, spring in cold-winter climates. For bulbs that remain in the ground, cut off rather than pull loose the dried foliage. In zones 7 and 8, protect garden beds with a layer of mulch, and choose a sheltered area that stays warmer in winter. Flowers are held above the fan of green leaves on wiry stems, each with several buds. The total plant height is 12 to 18 inches.

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