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Haemanthus humilis

  • Pink Paint Brush

  • Rabbit’s Ears

  • Bobbejaanoor (A)

  • Velskoenblaar (A)

  • Sekitla (SS)


  • These beautiful bulbs belong to a genus of somewhat 22 species, many of them native to southern Africa, and were one of the first indigenous bulbs to be collected and exported by avid early botanists. The genus name, “Haemanthus” is a combination of the Greek words for blood (Haima) and flower (Anthos) and refers to the striking, deep crimson flowers produced by certain species. The specific epithet pertains to its rather prostrate, low-growing growth habit. This lovely, petite, geophytic perennial bulb has hirsute, two-ranked, broadly elliptic leaves and a striking, dense, puffball-like inflorescence consisting of up to a hundred, radially symmetrical, starry flowers that range from pallid pink to milky white and have a faint sweet fragrance. Several delicate, cernuous, coloured membranes envelop the base of the flowerhead. There are currently two known subspecies of this bulb, namely H. humilis humilis and H. humilis hirsutus which can be distinguished by the amount of spathe valves on the inflorescence and the length of the stamens.


  • Amaryllidaceae (The Amaryllis family)


  • These stunning bulbs frequent the summer rainfall areas of South Africa and are most often found growing on steep cliffs and rocky terrains which offer them some protection and partial shade.

  • They grow well in the arid, karroid regions (± 1200 – 2500 mm altitudes) and are broadly distributed in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the western parts of Gauteng, the Northern Cape, Free State, Botswana and Swaziland.

Foliage & Bulb

  • Deciduous.

  • This species has a smallish, oviform, slightly compressed underground or semi-epigeal bulb (25 – 80 mm) that is covered with rather short, horizontally elided scales.

  • Each bulb produces two oppositely arranged, semi- prostrate leaves (140 – 300 x 40 – 130 mm), which can be smooth and hairless or finely hairy; the lower surface typically covered with hairs.

  • They have pale to medium, even green colour and a broadly oblong-elliptic to lingulate, sub-acute shape.

  • New leaves are produced with o shortly after the flowers.


  • Numerous small, pale rose to deep pink or white, actinomorphic florets (15 – 25 mm) are carried in a firmly held, lax, dome-shaped umbel (inflorescence).

  • The perianth segments are rectilinear and somewhat spreading, equal in length to (or slightly more protruding than) the stamens.

  • The anthers are yellow and the filaments white.

  • Each flower-head has 4-10, pale crimson, acute, broadly lanceolate, deltoid and somewhat fleshy spathe valves.

  • The main stem of the inflorescence is compact, slightly arched, greenish-purple (45 – 250 mm), and covered with dense, fine hairs.

  • September – February.


  • A greenish-white or amber semi-rotund, fleshy berry (7-10 mm).

  • Each such berry contains only a single seed.

  • When fully ripened, it emits a strong, zesty, sweetish smell.


  • 150 – 600 mm.


  • 120 – 170 mm.


  • The leaves and occasionally the bulbs have been used in traditional medicine as a remedy for ulcers, asthma, stomach disorders and to speed up the healing process of wounds.


  • The bulbs are known to contain several, potentially toxic alkaloids and extreme care should be taken when handling or ingesting as it may cause severe irritation.


  • The flowers attract insects and butterflies as well as honey-and carpenter bees.


  • The Pink Paint Brush is an excellent, eye-catching, beautiful and generally fuss free garden addition.

  • It flowers freely without much special attention and is easy to care for. These bulbs also make stunning pot plants but need very good drainage to prevent root rot setting in.

  • Makes a good cut flower.

  • Once established, they are quite water-wise and look magnificent in a rock garden setting or mixed, raised flower bed.

  • It tolerates shady conditions and can grows well on a patio.

  • A most noteworthy specimen that deserves to be planted more often and is becoming increasingly rare in the wild.


  • Most Haemanthus species are tender to frosts and extended periods of very low temperatures.

  • In areas that are known to experience severe cold, they should be planted indoors or in a very sheltered, sunny position.

  • Once established they are tolerant of periods of mild drought, especially in the cooler months.

  • Tolerant of shade.


  • They grow best in lightly/ partly shaded areas.

Soil & Water

  • They prefer a gritty, loose, very well-drained soil with a little bit of added compost or fertiliser during the warmer months.

  • These bulbs are not particularly finicky with regards to soil ph.

  • Sensitive to over-feeding.

  • Low to moderate water needs, little to none in winter.

  • Keep the soil moist but not excessively wet for best growth.

  • Give more water in summer and on very hot and windy days.


  • H. humilis can be grown from from seed, offsets or bulb cuttings.

  • The seeds do not become dormant at all, and should be sown immediately after harvesting, preferably in later winter or early spring (seeds and offsets).

  • If kept in a refrigerator they will maintain their viability for a few months.

  • They need a very well-draining medium (at least 50-60% coarse grit) and a cool to temperate partly shaded and rather moist area.

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