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Ledebouria petiolata

Pronunciation: e-de-BOR-ree-a pet-ee-oh-LAH-tuh
Family: Hyacinthaceae
Synonym: Drimiopsis maculata, Drimiopsis minor, Scilla schlechteri
Common Name: Little White Soldiers, African False Hosta, African Hosta
Plant Type:
  • perennial
  • bulb, tuber, corm
Height to: 8in (20cm)
Width to: 13in (33cm)
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • 10 to 0ºF ZONE 7
  • 20 to 10ºF ZONE 8
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
  • 40 to 30ºF ZONE 10
  • 50 to 40ºF ZONE 11
  • 60 to 50ºF ZONE 12
  • 70 to 60ºF ZONE 13
Sun Exposure:
  • full shade
  • part sun
Bloom Season:
  • early summer
  • mid summer
  • late summer
Bloom Description: Flowers of Little White Soldiers (Ledebouria petiolata) species are interesting if not spectacular; they resemble in overall shape and effect a white to greenish white version of an elongated Muscari-like raceme but held much higher above the foliage on an elongated reddish flushed petiole; individual flowers have an inverted urn to bell shape and can be mildly showy; bloom occurs mostly in spring in our region, but can occur sporadically as temperatures permit in more tropical locations.
Soil Type: Under glass, grow in soil-based potting mix, with added sharp sand, in full light. Outdoors, grow in moderately fertile, well drained soil.
Pests and Diseases: Slugs, snails and other pests associated with shady moist environments can be occasional problems; avoid permanently saturated soils, but plants tolerate less than perfect drainage for short periods of time and prefer moist soils.
Propagation: So seed under glass in spring or autumn. Remove offsets in spring.
Native to: Southern and Eastern Africa.
Winter Sowing Zones: None
Notes for Identification:

Little White Soldiers (Ledebouria petiolata) Family: Currently arguments are being made for the genus' inclusion in a wider interpretation of the family Asparagaceae, however more traditionally it has been placed in the Hyacinthaceae or Liliaceae

Cold Hardiness: Cold hardiness is not fully defined, plants survived exposure to 18°F with some dieback, but recovered quickly; L. petiolata is probably useful in USDA zones 9 (8) to 13 as an evergreen, but can probably be used into zone 7 as a deciduous bulb.

Foliage: Tight clusters of oblong-ovate leaves arise from the bulbs; leaves have irregularly undulate margins and are thickened and fleshy in texture; bases are cordate, tips long acute to acuminate, and petioles are stout with small wing-like margins; the specific epithet likely refers to these prominent petioles; the medium to dark green leaves are blotched with translucent dark green to dark purplish ink-blot like irregular variegations, hence the former specific epithet of maculata.

Stem a rosette of leaves arising directly from the underground bulbs; Buds — buried tightly within the rosette of foliage

Habit: Plants persist as slowly expanding clusters of bulbs with tight rosettes of evergreen to semi-evergreen foliage; foliage is 4" to 6" tall with flower stalks 8" to 12" high; bulbs can reportedly reach 2" in diameter; the overall texture is medium to medium-coarse, but pleasantly so; growth is slow and plants should be place on close spacings to fill in an area in a reasonable time frame.

Cultural Requirements: Fairly new to our regional landscape trade, this taxon's cultural requirements are not fully defined, but it appears to perform well in a variety of soil types including those that tend to be less than perfectly well drained; growth is best in shade, but with good quality irrigation water plants tolerate some sun; growth is slow, so good garden conditions favoring growth are desirable; periodic division of the clumps of bulbs may be necessary over time; plants are heat and shade adapted and tolerate some salts in the irrigation water; L. petiolata is soil pH adaptable, but requires regular irrigation in drier sites.

Ornamental Assets: Handsome almost succulent-like foliage resembles a miniature version of a Hosta; excellent shade and heat tolerance allow use in a variety of locations.

Limitations & Liabilities: Cold it is the primary limitation for this taxon and growth is much better in shade than sun; slow growth can limit larger scale applications as a groundcover.

Landscape Utilization: After over ten years of observing this taxon, I am becoming more impressed with its potential as a small scale groundcover for the southern half of Texas and as a pocket accent in mixed shade borders, rock gardens, and woodland paths; it also performs admirably in containers and offers numerous opportunities for shaded porches, patios, entryways, or even in higher light interiorscapes; it needs to become more readily available to gardeners in our region.

Source: Texas A&M, and the University of Georgia

USDA Heat Zones (days above 86ºF):
  • 60 to 90 days ZONE 7
  • 90 to 120 days ZONE 8
  • 120 to 150 days ZONE 9
  • 150 to 180 days ZONE 10
  • 180 to 210 days ZONE 11
  • Greater then 210 ZONE 12
Seed photo: 0
Seed Label: 0
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