Type of Flower
Sparaxis (Harlequin Flower) is a genus in the family Iridaceae with about 13 species endemic to Cape Province, South Africa.
All are perennials that grow during the wet winter season, flower in spring and survive underground as dormant corms over summer. Their conspicuous flowers have six tepals, which in most species are equal in size and shape.
Sparaxis bulbifera is the commonest in cultivation, with flowers from cream to yellow or purple. S. grandiflora is a similar but larger plant. Sparaxis tricolor has bright red flowers with yellow and black centres. Many named hybrid cultivars were bred from S. elegant,S. bulbifera and S. tricolor.
A group of species with asymmetrical flowers marked in mauve and yellow, including Sparaxis variegata and Sparaxis villosa, was formerly treated as the genus Synnotia.
They are easy to grow in Mediterranean climates. They have been in cultivation for a number of years and there are many colorful hybrids grown as well. The genus Synnotia is now included in this genus. Sparaxis can become virused. Plants may continue to bloom, but there can be a color break in the petals.
Sparaxis (Harlequin) flowers are early summer bloomers that perk up walkways and patios. Individual blooms do not last long, but flowers on the slender stems open successively from the bottom up, producing a long-lasting display that will look even more striking when planted close together in large groups. Harlequin flowers grow an average height of about 10 inches high. Use them as an accent in mixed beds and borders, rock gardens and containers. Harlequin flowers also make excellent cut flowers. During the growing season, the soil should be kept continually moist, especially after planting. Corms should be planted in the spring about 2 inches deep. Harlequin flowers prefer full sun in humus-rich sandy soil, but a semi-shaded site will also produce excellent results. Harlequin flowers will also thrive well in relatively poor soil.
Little Sparaxis plant care is necessary with these flowers. In wet summer gardens, the corms are best lifted and stored but in well-drained areas, they can be left in the ground. Some species of the genus are not cold hardy. So if you live in colder regions, dig up the corms and store them before the first frost.
The corms multiply rapidly if well watered throughout the growing season. Seeds can be sown in autumn and will flower the second spring or the offsets can be divided during dormancy and replanted.