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South Australia’s vanilla lily

Arthropodium strictum is the botanical name of South Australia’s vanilla lily and as the common name suggests it belongs to the lily family.

The vanilla lily is a bulb or technically a herbaceous perennial herb. It is widespread throughout South Australia, growing naturally in the higher rainfall areas but also in the Murraylands, and on the Yorke and Eyre peninsulas, so it will comfortably survive on annual rainfall of 400mm per annum or even a bit less.

Belonging to the lily family they grow actively between autumn and spring and then die down and are dormant throughout summer. The tufted bright green foliage is narrow and grass like in appearance up to 40cms high. The spectacular blues to purple flowers are borne on spikes that hang above the foliage and are a pleasant view when they wave in the lightest of breezes. The flowers have a vanilla or even chocolate fragrance which is delightful.

The vanilla lily is relatively easy to grow in well drained soils with dappled light or full sun and add a real treat when dotted throughout any garden or rockery. They respond well to additional water and a light top dressing of organic fertiliser after they emerge from their dormancy in autumn. They have the ability under favourable conditions to self-seed but they are not intrusive and this is a fine attribute of the plant as it will gracefully inhabit your garden.

The vanilla lily can make a fine pot plant when grown in mass putting on a marvellous display but treat them like the bulb they are and let them dry out in summer during their dormancy.