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Products > Albuca nelsonii
Albuca nelsonii - Natal Albuca
Image of Albuca nelsonii
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Bulb/Tuber/Rhizome etc.
Family: Hyacinthaceae (~Amaryllidaceae)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Winter/Spring
Height: 3-4 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Exposure: Light Shade/Part Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Albuca nelsonii (Natal Albuca) - A large evergreen bulbous perennial with a partially exposed basal bulb and deep green lanceolate and fleshy leaves to 3' tall. In late winter into spring the showy flowers rise above foliage on slender 4 to 5 foot tall stalks. The large white flowers have 3 outer tepals that flare slightly outwards while the inner 3 remain together pointing upward, all with a distinct green midrib to each tepal.

Plant in well-drained soil in full sun along the coast to half day sun or light shade. Requires only occasional irrigation in coastal gardens. Recommended for near frost free gardens but we have found it hardy without damage down to 25F during our January 2007 cold spell with 3 nights in a row with this temperature.

Albuca nelsonii comes from partially shaded areas in grassland and on coastal cliffs in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. The name Albuca is derived from the Latin words 'albus' meaning "white" or 'albicans' meaning becoming white in reference to the color of the flowers. The specific epithet honors William Nelson (1852-1922), a British nurseryman who first collected the species. The leaves of the genus have a slimy sap when broken and in South Africa they have been called slime lily, and this plant, 'Nelson's slime lily' - a dreadful name for such an attractive and statuesque plant.

Recent studies on the genus suggest that it could be combined with another South African genus, Ornithogalum, from which it differs in having erect inner tepals that hide the stamens and ovary. Our plants from seed received from Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in 1989 and we have offered this plant ever since. In 2021 we were alerted about a similar plant that Jo O'Connell was growing and selling at her Australian Native Plant Nursery in Ojai as Albuca betteniana, which is a similar but considerably smaller species grows on sea-facing cliffs in the Western Cape of South Africa. Jo had received the plant from someone who had purchased the plant from a California mail order nursery under this name. We exchanged plants and we both planted the two species side by side in our gardens. In both locations the plants grew to have 4 to 5 foot+ flowers and we noted no discernable differences between the two, so it is our belief that some plants of Albuca nelsonii may be circulating about in the trade as Albuca betteniana. 

This information about Albuca nelsonii displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.