Hairbells, Grassy-bell, Grasklokkies, isiDwendweni, Angel's Fishing Rod, Wandflower - Dierama

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Dierama pulcherrimum. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDierama pulcherrimum. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za Condensed Version:

The plants of this genus are evergreen perennial herbs growing from large, fibrous-coated corms and forming a large clump of narrow, grass-like green leaves. When in flower, the slightest breath of wind causes the stems to sway gently; adding a magical quality to the plants. Even after the flowers have fallen and before the seed capsules develop, the bracts from which the flowers emerge, which are usually silvery or brown, give the appearance of a tall elegant grass in flower. Flowering is mainly from September to March, depending on the species; and there are many cultivars in shades of pink, reddish-pink, mauve, white and rarely, yellow. The flowers are excellent for cutting, and as they  develop, their increasing weight causes the main stem to bend like a fishing rod under strain; and  when the seeds develop the extra weight can cause the stems of some plants to bend more and in some cases make a parabola shape with the tips touching or almost touching the ground.

Hairbells look great in grassland, cottage and informal gardens; as well as in gravel or rock gardens. Try mixing them with ornamental grasses or use them as an accent plant in flower borders. They are a good choice to plant on banks and slopes and are attractive near water, but careful positioning is necessary as the corms must not get too wet, especially in winter. They will also grow in deep containers.

Dierama grow well in the summer rainfall regions of the country and at the coast. They are hardy to frost and temperatures down to -5°C. In the garden they like an open and airy site in full sun and will grow in most well-drained soils. These plants will grow in seasonally boggy soils which do not dry out totally in summer; they will however not tolerate water-logging during winter. To look their best they require deep and thorough watering in summer, especially in dry regions of the country. Dierama corms are best planted in spring, with the corms 5 to 7.5cm deep. Spring and early summer are the best times to plant out from nursery bags, but care must be taken not to disturb the roots, and a heavy drenching with water is needed directly after planting. Hairbells can be grown in deep containers using a fertile but very well-drained potting soil. Adding river sand to the potting soil will greatly aid drainage. Apply a general purpose fertiliser and some bone meal in spring. These perennials can take 2 to 5 years to reach their ultimate height and the various species vary in height and spread, ranging from about 1 to 1.6m tall and 75 to 90cm wide. Although hairbells are evergreen they will take a rest period in winter and it is important to note that even during this phase they must still receive adequate sun or very bright light for them to produce flowers in early spring and summer. Dieramas need very little maintenance and will form dense clumps with age which should be left undisturbed for up to five years or more. Also, the green leaves should never be cut back as this severely retards growth and flowering; only the old outer brown leaves should be removed by gentle tugging.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Dierama is a genus of about 44 species of flowering plants in the iris family Iridaceae and is endemic to Africa. The majority occur in South Africa, with the greatest diversity found in KwaZulu-Natal which has about 26 species. The geographical range of the genus runs much further north with several species occurring at relatively high altitudes in tropical East Africa; in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique, with one species in Ethiopia. Being evergreen they are adapted to the summer rainfall regions with their westerly range terminating at Knysna. In the Eastern Cape and Natal they may be found from just above sea level to the Drakensberg escarpment, but in the tropics Dierama is largely montane. Despite its wide distribution, dierama is restricted to a single major habitat - moist grassland.

The plants of this genus are evergreen perennial herbs growing from large, fibrous-coated corms and forming a large clump of narrow, grass-like green leaves. When in flower, the slightest breath of wind causes the stems to sway gently; adding a magical quality to the plants and making it easy to understand why Dierama is commonly called angel’s fishing rod. They are also commonly known as Hairbells because of the fine hair like stems from which the flowers hang. Even after the flowers have fallen and before the seed capsules develop, the bracts from which the flowers emerge, which are usually silvery or brown, give the appearance of a tall elegant grass in flower. Flowering is mainly from September to March, depending on the species; and there are many cultivars in shades of pink, reddish-pink, mauve, white and rarely, yellow. The flowers are excellent for cutting, and as they  develop, their increasing weight causes the main stem to bend like a fishing rod under strain; and  when the seeds develop the extra weight can cause the stems of some plants to bend more and in some cases make a parabola shape with the tips touching or almost touching the ground.

(Dierama pendulum) is one of the most well-known and desirable members with a somewhat limited distribution extending from Knysna in the southern Cape, to the Zuurberg and Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape where it grows wild in grasslands and hillsides in full sun and on stony or marshy ground. Its flowering period extends from early spring to early summer.
 
(Dierama pulcherrimum) grows wild in the Eastern Cape and is also known as the East London hairbell.  It is a tall, robust species which grows about 1 to 1.6m tall in open, stony grasslands. It has magenta pink to rosy-purple flowers in summer.

(Dierama nixonianum) has lovely shell-pink or white flowers and grows +-1.2m tall.

(Dierama latifolium) has bright pink flowers in spring and grows 1.1 to 2.7m tall.

(Dierama trichorhizum) has bluish-mauve flowers and grows +-60cm tall.

(Dierama reynoldsii) grows in medium to high-altitude grassland in the Eastern Cape (former Transkei) and KwaZulu-Natal. It has wonderful magenta-red flowers and grows +-1.5m tall.

(Dierama grandiflorum) is rare and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and spectacular of the species with conspicuous, large and widely opening pink flowers. It appears to occur in only two populations - one on the Bosberg Mountain above Somerset East in the Eastern Cape, and the other some 100 km further west on the Oudeberg north of Graaff Reinet. Other populations hopefully occur in suitable mountain habitats on the ranges between Somerset East and Graaff Reinet, but they have not been seen or recorded yet. In the Bosberg mountain region it occurs in small localised populations on high grassy slopes at altitudes of 1300 to 1400m and often in rocky and stony areas. Read more about this rare dierama here….

In the Garden:

Choose an open and airy position in full sun to plant dierama. They grow well in coastal gardens and look great in grassland, cottage and informal gardens; as well as in gravel or rock gardens. Try mixing them with ornamental grasses or use them as an accent plant in flower borders. They are a good choice to plant on banks and slopes and are attractive near water, but careful positioning is necessary as the corms must not get too wet, especially in winter. They will also grow in deep containers. The flowers attract butterflies, honey bees and carpenter bees, and even when not in bloom, their foliage remains attractive.

Dierama pulcherrimum. Picture courtey www.newplant.co.zaDierama pulcherrimum. Picture courtey www.newplant.co.zaCultivation:

Hairbells grow well in the summer rainfall regions of the country and at the coast. They are hardy to frost and temperatures down to -5°C. In the garden they like an open and airy site in full sun and will grow in most well-drained soils: sand, chalk, loam and even clay. Heavier clay soils and lighter sandy soils should be improved by incorporating lots of compost into the beds; raised beds would work best in heavy clay soils.
Dierama do not seem to be particular as to the pH of the soil, they are tolerant of an alkaline soil though a neutral to acid soil is likely to suit them best, particularly as some species occur naturally in peaty areas in the wild. These plants will grow in both well-drained garden beds and seasonally boggy soils which do not dry out totally in summer; they will however not tolerate water-logging during winter. To look their best they require deep and thorough watering in summer, especially in dry regions of the country.

Dierama corms are best planted in spring, with the corms 5 to 7.5cm deep. Spring and early summer are the best times to plant out from nursery bags, but care must be taken not to disturb the roots, and a heavy drenching with water is needed directly after planting. Hairbells can be grown in deep containers using a fertile but very well-drained potting soil. Adding river sand to the potting soil will greatly aid drainage. Apply a general purpose fertiliser and some bone meal in spring.

These perennials can take 2 to 5 years to reach their ultimate height and the various species vary in height and spread, ranging from about 1 to 1.6m tall and 75 to 90cm wide.  Although hairbells are evergreen they will take a rest period in winter and it is important to note that even during this phase they must still receive adequate sun or very bright light for them to produce flowers in early spring and summer. Dieramas need very little maintenance and will form dense clumps with age which should be left undisturbed for up to five years or more. Also, the green leaves should never be cut back as this severely retards growth and flowering; only the old outer brown leaves should be removed by gentle tugging.

Propagation:

The two best ways of increasing stocks are by seed and division. Fresh ripe seeds grow easily and can be sown into individual small pots in a well-drained germination mix.  Protect the young seedlings from frost when growing on and they should be ready to plant out the following spring.  Plants grown from seed can take up to five year to flower.

Named cultivars can be propagated by division in spring or immediately after flowering; but this should only be undertaken occasionally as disturbed plants are slow to re-establish and can take one to two years before they will flower freely again.  Gently lift the plants and separate the corms, taking care not to damage the brittle, fleshy roots. Cut the leaves in half with secateurs before replanting.

Pests & Diseases:

Dieramas are generally pest and disease free but the corms are a favourite food of mole rats, to overcome line the planting hole with plastic or wire mesh. Watch out for snail, aphids and slugs.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Hairbells, Grassy-bell, Grasklokkies, isiDwendweni, Angel's Fishing Rod, Wandflower
  • Latin Name: Dierama