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Babiana (Baboon Root)

BABIANA (Baboon Root) Iridaceae B. stricta (formerly known as Gladiolus plicatus)

HABITAT: Native to South Africa and Asia. Zone 7.

USES: Pots, rock gardens, borders.

HABIT: 6-12" plant, bearing spikes of 10-20 sweetly scented, freesia-like blossoms in blue, rose, crimson, yellow, violet, and white, blooming late spring to early summer for 3-5 weeks. Foliage is sword-shaped like gladiolus but is deeply pleated (wrinkled) and hairy.

SEED GERMINATION AND CULTURE: Sow in September-October in a protected spot (cold frame, etc.) and in light, sandy soil. Keep moist during germination. Bulbs which form will flower in 18-20 months. Offsets or cormels which are removed at potting time are grown in boxes of soil until flowering size is reached. For pots, set 5 bulbs in a 4" pot of commercially prepared potting soil or part leaf mold and part sand. Set tops of bulbs 1" below the surface of the soil. Place pots in a cold frame until shoots appear, then place in a cool (45 degree night) greenhouse. Water lightly at first, then more freely as plants progress. When plants are well established, keep moist constantly but reduce water when flowering ceases and leaves change color. When leaves have died completely, keep the pot on dry side until re-potting in autumn. In zones 7-10, corms may be set 3-4" apart and 3-4" deep, directly in the garden. Fertilize after plants have emerged with an all-purpose garden fertilizer. Keep well-watered. Place in full sun and in well-drained soil with lots of humus (leaf mold, compost, peat moss, etc.) added. Plant the corms which will winter over, in the fall, and plant corms to be dug in the fall, in the spring.

INSECTS: Aphids: For best results use an approved insecticide such as Malathion or Rotenone for control.
Thrips: For best results use an approved insecticide such as Sevin or Malathion for control.
Wire Worm: For best results use an approved insecticide such as Malathion for control.
Bulb Mite: For best results use an approved insecticide such as Diazinon for control.

DISEASES: Mosaic: Destroy infected plants and control insects which spread the disease.
Botrytis Blight: Improve spacing for air circulation. Improve soil drainage. Apply every 7-10 days an approved fungicide such as Zineb or Captan for control.
Bulb Rot: Destroy infected plants and parts. Improve drainage and improve air circulation by spacing and dust with Captan or Phaltan prior to planting.

PROPAGATION: Offsets (cormels), seeds.