Proiphys amboinensis (Cardwell Lily, Northern Christmas Lily)
Incidentally, just came across online that its common names in Chinese are Crystal Lily and False Hosta. Hmm…no wonder, our plant got us fooled! ;)
After 7 long years of growing them in our tropical garden, our potted plant bloomed for the first time ever last April. Absolutely captivating and had us mesmerized for more than a month with its staggered flowering.
Nonetheless, ignorance is bliss, so they say! Thinking it was a non-flowering plant then, we didn’t miss its flowers at all and were truly delighting in its shiny and glossy green foliage with leaves that are attractively large, heart-shaped and embossed with beautiful venation. This is its great asset and had been its primary attraction for us for years and continues to be. But, of course, if our Cardwell Lily flowers again, that’s an added bonus, yes? :D
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :
- Botanical Name: Proiphys amboinensis (syn.: Eurycles amboinensis, E. sylvestris)
- Common Name: Cardwell Lily, Northern Christmas Lily.
- Family name: Amaryllidaceae
- Plant type: Bulbous perennial herb
- Origin: Amboina Island (now Ambon) in Indonesia, hence the species epithet amboinensis. Also native to tropical regions of northern Australia and Southeast Asia, and naturalized in Malaysia and the Philippines.
- Features: Proiphys amboinensis is the most beautiful among the 4 species that make up the genus Proiphys. The other three species being P. alba with the smallest leaves, P. cunninghamii (Brisbane Lily) and P. infundibularis. A herbaceous perennial that grows naturally in the rainforest of Southeast Asia and Indonesia, and northern coastal regions of Australia, but now often seen grown in home gardens and elsewhere.
It has a slow to moderate growth rate and offsets readily with clump-forming habit. It produces tunicated bulbs from which emerge attractive leaves held atop fairly erect petioles that usually bend with age. The green leaf stem grows between 20-75 cm tall, generally longer or almost twice as long as its leaf.
The medium to dark green or lime-green foliage is absolutely beautiful. Cordate and broadly heart-shaped with a mucronate tip and slightly wavy margin, the large leaf blade is thin and papery. It has a shiny and glossy finish and distinctly furrowed with symmetrically curved venation with 12-15 vein pairs. Leaf size is variable, up to 30 cm long and width may be almost the same or 2.54-5.1 cm broader or narrower than the length.
The plant is evergreen in the tropics but in cooler regions, it undergoes a dormant period, becomes deciduous and dies back to an underground bulb during winter. Recalled reading an interesting article on its floral growth which stated that floral development was observed to have commenced from the bulb’s growing point as early as the dying-back of the leaves. Remarkable!
Flowers are as fabulous too, though not often seen in our tropical country, Malaysia. (A friend of ours has planted them for 30 years and was never rewarded with flowers…wonder why?). They are known to usually flower around Christmas time (November to December) in the wild, hence the common name, Northern Christmas Lily.
The 6-petaled striking white flowers are borne in a large cluster on a tall flowering scape up to 60 cm long or more, towering above the attractive foliage.
A single umbellate inflorescence may have up to 24 flowers though usually lesser, with buds blooming in succession over an extended period of time.
Each flower is about 5.5 cm across, perianth up to 7.6 cm long with its tube almost half of that and pedicel up to 4 cm long.
The filaments with yellow stamens are fused at the base to form a central toothed cup, quite similar to that of the Hymenocallis caribaea (Caribbean Spiderlily).
Its globular or pendulous flower head can be small or as large as 18 cm across, depending on the number of flowers in each cluster.
Flowers will eventually set roundish fruits or seed pods that are smooth, glossy and dark green in color, 2.5-3 cm in diameter. These take months to ripen with seeds that can be germinated to produce new plants. The fleshy seeds in the fruit is also known to germinate prematurely whilst still on the plant, a process known as viviparous, and can be planted as new plants.
- Culture (Care): Proiphys amboinensis are hardy and easily grown, especially in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
Light: Grows best in semi-shade to full-shade, with filtered or little sun.
Moisture: Medium water regularly, with soil being moist but not soggy.
Soil: Prefers humus-enriched and well-drained soil.
Others: Remove yellow or discolored leaves to keep tidy. Snip off the flowering scape when the flowers are spent if uninterested in getting them to set seeds. Feed monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Repot or replant when the clumps become overly pot bound or extremely large. Generally, disease and pest free.
For subtropical and temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 10a-11. In frosted regions, plant them in pots in a greenhouse or conservatory. Plants will enter a dormancy period during winter and should be left undisturbed.
- Propagation: Propagate from seeds or division of bulbs, the latter being the easiest and more reliable method. Gently, dig out the clumps, remove the offsets that form on mature bulbs and grow them separately to get new plants.
Update: Nov. 16 2009: refer here on how to propagate by seeds.
- Usage: Cardwell Lily can be mass planted in garden beds or borders in shady areas under trees, or near water features. Excellent for container gardening, located outdoors in the shaded garden, patio, deck, porch or courtyard as a specimen or with a crowd of foliage plants.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the photos of our lovely bulbous Proiphys amboinensis that were included above. How beautiful and luxuriant is its foliage, as with its gorgeous flowers. Wonder when will be its next flowering…not another 7-year wait, we hope! :D
Update: May 3 2011
Surprise! Surprise! Our Cardwell Lily flowered again in two years! Blooming again during the Easter season… what a miracle!