How To Grow And Care For Galtonia Candicans (Summer Hyacinth)

Mastering the art of growing this beautiful bulbous perennial

Photo of author

By Edward Campbell

galtonia candicans - summer hyacynth

Galtonia candicans, commonly known as Summer Hyacinth, is an enchanting bulbous perennial that adds a touch of elegance and fragrance to any garden. Native to South Africa, this plant is valued for its striking vertical accents and bell-shaped, fragrant white flowers that bloom in the late summer.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice looking to enhance your outdoor space, growing and caring for Galtonia candicans is a rewarding endeavor.

How to Grow and Care for Galtonia

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you cultivate this beautiful plant successfully, based on what I’ve learned throughout the years.

Choosing the Right Location

The first step in growing Galtonia candicans is selecting the right location. Summer Hyacinth thrives in full sun to partial shade. An area that receives direct sunlight for at least half the day is ideal, as ample sunlight is crucial for the development of the lush, white blooms.

Galtonia can be grown in the United States, particularly in regions where the climate is conducive to their growth needs. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 7-10. In colder regions, the bulbs can be lifted and stored over winter to protect them from freezing temperatures.

However, in regions with very hot summers, providing some afternoon shade will help protect the plants from excessive heat.

Soil Requirements

Galtonia candicans prefers well-drained soil to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to bulb rot. The ideal soil should be rich in organic matter to provide nutrients and enhance soil structure. If your garden soil is heavy or clayey, amend it with compost or well-rotted manure and consider adding some sand or perlite to improve drainage.

Planting the Bulbs

Planting the bulbs correctly is vital for the health and flowering of your Summer Hyacinth. The best time to plant Galtonia candicans bulbs is in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Plant the bulbs about 3 to 4 inches deep and space them approximately 6 inches apart. Place the bulbs with the pointy end facing upwards.

After planting, water the bulbs well to settle the soil around them.

Watering and Fertilization

While Galtonia candicans is drought tolerant once established, it benefits from regular watering during the growing season, especially in dry periods. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Overwatering can be detrimental, so it’s crucial to ensure the soil has good drainage.

Fertilization can help promote vigorous growth and abundant flowering. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring as new growth appears and again midway through the growing season. Alternatively, you can use a liquid fertilizer every few weeks during the spring and early summer.

galtonia candicans
Less celebrated than her spring cousin, the summer hyacinth (Galtonia candicans) displays its white bells.

Mulching and Winter Care

In colder climates, mulching around the base of the plants in the fall can help insulate the bulbs from extreme cold and temperature fluctuations. Use organic mulch such as straw, leaves, or pine bark. This not only protects the bulbs but also adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.

In regions where winter temperatures drop below freezing, it may be necessary to lift the bulbs in the fall. Store them in a cool, dry place over winter and replant them the following spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Pest and Disease Management

Galtonia candicans is relatively disease-free but can be susceptible to slugs and snails, which may nibble on the leaves and flowers. Keep an eye out for these pests, especially during wet periods. Use environmentally friendly methods such as beer traps or diatomaceous earth to control them.

Pruning and Maintenance

Galtonia does not require extensive pruning. After the flowers fade, cut back the flower stalks but leave the foliage in place until it dies back naturally. The leaves will continue to photosynthesize and store energy in the bulbs for the next growing season.

Once the leaves yellow and wither, they can be removed.

Propagating Galtonia Candicans

Propagating Summer Hyacinth is primarily done by dividing the bulbs in the autumn. Every few years, dig up the clumps after the foliage has died back, gently separate the bulbs, and replant them immediately. This not only helps to rejuvenate the plants but also increases your stock.

Choosing the right location for your Galtonia is of paramount importance.

Landscape Uses and Design Ideas

Galtonia candicans offers striking vertical elements that can elevate the design of a variety of garden styles. Its tall, elegant spikes of bell-shaped white flowers make it an ideal candidate for creating height and drama in borders or beds. When planted in groups or drifts, Galtonia candicans creates a striking visual impact, drawing the eye with its pure white blossoms that glow in the evening light.

This plant is also perfect for adding structure to cottage gardens, where its height can contrast beautifully against shorter, bushier plants like lavender and roses. In wildflower gardens, the naturalistic appearance of Galtonia allows it to blend seamlessly with grasses and other native plants, providing a transition from cultivated spaces to wilder areas.

For those with limited space, Galtonia thrives in containers, making it a suitable choice for balconies and patios where ground planting isn’t an option. Arranging several pots with these plants can form a lovely, secluded nook, transforming an urban outdoor area into a private floral retreat.

Furthermore, because of its late summer blooming period, Galtonia can ensure continuous color in gardens where early summer flowers have begun to fade, keeping the landscape lively and attractive through multiple seasons.

A Personal Note

Less celebrated and planted than her spring cousin, the summer hyacinth (Galtonia candicans) is nonetheless a wonderful flowering plant. I personally appreciate Galtonia because of its understated elegance and the subtle fragrance that wafts through the air on a warm summer evening. Its towering spikes of delicate white flowers provide a visual anchor in my garden, drawing the eye upward and creating a sense of vertical drama that few other plants can achieve.

Additionally, the ease with which it blends into diverse garden styles, from formal to more naturalistic settings, makes it incredibly versatile.

Whether nestled among grasses or serving as a backdrop for lower-growing perennials, Galtonia stands out as a graceful and captivating presence that enhances the overall garden aesthetic.

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