June 15, 2010

Green Coral, Bowiea volubilis

We often see the common succulent plant known as Sea Onion, or Bowiea volubilis grown as a house plant you can find from growers often called 'Climbing Onion' or 'Sea Onion'. If you can't find one, try a friend who may have one, this is a classic sharing plants, for the bulb-like water storage organs that look like onions, will off-set, and divisions are eagerly shared. This is  plant that beginner love, and one that more experienced growers will grow more gracefully, in bonsai pots or on little trellis', but rarely does one see it grown so magnificently, it remains a novelty, with weakly drooping branches tha just seem to get in the way, twist-tied over a window sill, or to a window frame. 

For many of this odd climbing plants, finding the perfect method for displaying can be challenging. A few years ago, I started seeing more experienced growers cultivating Bowiea on branches of Manzanita, which one can find at pet stores, a rock-hard branch used for rigging in parrot cages, which happens to have an elegant branching habit. The Bowiea vines twist beautifully over these branches, and when fully 'leafed out' after a growth spurt, all the branchlets will orient themselves with available light, and set themselves at the same angle, crucial for the proper display of this plant.

Last year, I had about a half dozen 'pseudobulbs' or Bowiea bulbs, which do look like shiny, spheres of line green onions covered in this tissue paper, which were dormant in the greenhouse, and rather than toss them out into the compost pile, since I really didn't know what to do with them, and any expensive Manzanita branches at our home, ends up in the parrot cages, I decided to take a lesson from my Disney Imgineering days, and plant ALL of the bulbs into ONE MASSIVE pot, and see what happened. Extreme plantings sometimes work out, besides, I had this tacky trellis which I had received in a raffle from our local botanic garden, and really didn't grow any vines worth displaying on it.

What resulted was this, the dormant Bowiea emerged, their snake-like tendrils grew quickly in the spring and covered the obelisk, completely covering it, then, it bloomed. As the branchlets extended and matured, they all angled themselves gracefully together, and the entire structure looked amazing. Everyone who visits comments on it, even members of the Cactus and Succulent Society who might frown on such decorative excess. 

But that hasn't satisfied me. Oh no, why, are those seedlings of Ipomoea quamoclit, the red Cyprus vine emerging below the Bowiea foliage???? Me thinks so. 


  1. I want one! We have a very healthy succulent collection in our garden, but I've never seen this one before. I'll be keeping an eye out for it.

  2. I almost pulled them out the other day I thought they were weeds....

  3. Amazing display .. I am speechless ....


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