plant of the month Crocosmia Aurea

 The Crocosmia Aurea, also known as falling stars, valentine flower, montbretia, valentynsblom  umlunge and udwendweni puts on an impressive display for those who may venture onto the trails of the Hawaan Forest of  uMhlanga, flowering profusely from January until June each year.

The flowers are luminous orange to red, forming a branched inflorescence, with sword shaped leaves, not unlike dietes grandiflora.
The plant occurs naturally from the coastal regions of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, up to the altitudes of 2 000 m above sea level in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Swaziland.

It thrives in moist habitats – Stream banks, forest margins, in shaded areas, (although I have had success growing them in full sun).

Falling stars can be propagated by seeds or by dividing large clumps of corms formed during the growing season.
To grow from seed, sow in a compost-based growing medium and keep moist in a warm place.
The seedlings need to be kept at warm temperatures until they are fully established.

The ideal time to plant Crocosmia Aurea is from August to early September, but bear in mind that plants grown from corms may not flower well in the season following being planted, and plants grow from seed will take two years to flower.
Falling stars should be planted in large groups for maximum affect and be left undisturbed for some time to multiply. They can then be lifted and divided.

The plants do spread rapidly once established, so it is an idea to keep an eye on them if you have a very controlled flower bed.
The plants are dormant in winter, and will die back, springing back to life when the weather starts to warm.

Falling stars are great for the environment, with the flowers attracting butterflies, its seeds being eaten by birds, and the corms being eaten by bush pigs.
It is used in traditional medicine as a treatment for dysentery.
Interestingly the genus name is derived from the Greek words, krokos, meaning saffron, and some, meaning smell, as when the dried flowers are placed in warm water, they emit a strong smell of saffron.

Crocosmia Aurea is a stunning addition to any garden, and a welcome surprise when the winter warms and they make their annual appearance!