Silver Squill, Violet Squill, Leopard Lily, South African Scilla, Bluebell, and, African Hyacinth, Wood Hyacinth
Synonyms of Ledebouria socialist (5) (Updated on 10-9-21 from Plants of the World Online): Ledebouria violacea (Hutch.) W.L.Tjaden (1989), Scilla laxa Poelln. (1944), Scilla paucifolia Baker (1870), Scilla socialis Baker (1870), Scilla violacea Hutch. (1932)
Ledebouria socialis (Baker) Jessop is the correct and accepted name for this species of Ledebouria. It was named and described as such by John Peter Jessop in Journal of South African Botany in 1970. It was first named Scilla socialis by John Gilbert Baker in Refugium Botanicum in 1870 (PLUS 29 other Scilla species).
It is interesting that John Gilbert Baker named 30 species of Ledebouria in 1870 and 100 years later, in 1970, a few were transferred to the Ledebouria genus by John Peter Jessop. The Scilla genus is still alive and well with 89 species (as of 10-9-21).
The genus, Ledebouria Roth, was named and described by Albrecht Wilhelm Roth in Novae Plantarum Species Praesertim Indiae Orientalis in 1811.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 64 species in the Ledebouria genus (as of 10-9-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Asparagaceae with 120 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
I had a separate page for both of these plants, but then I decided to combine them into one since they are both the same species. Most websites, especially those selling these plants, usually only show one. If you shop for these plants on Ebay, you will notice a few misnamed plants. They are misnamed because they bought them that way. With this page, I hope to show you the difference between two of the most commonly available Ledebouria socialis. I am certainly no expert.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
So, let’s start from the beginning…
I bought two plants from a member of the Facebook Group called Succulent Marketplace in October 2018. She said one of them was Ledebouria scilla paucifolia and the other was Ledebouria socialis violacea ‘Silver Squill’. Of course, I had to do some research…
Apparently, Ledebouria species were originally part of the Scilla genus. According to the Pacific Bulb Society, the Ledebouria “is now regarded as distinct from Scilla which is a genus of the Northern Hemisphere.” Well, according to the distribution map on Plants of the World Online, there are Scilla species in Southern Africa. Possibly because they grow in the north and south, but I am not going to check out each species. This page is about Ledebouria socialis anyway. 🙂
Mr. John Gilbert Baker first named Scilla paucifolia and Scilla socialis in 1870. Then John Hutchinson named Scilla violacea in 1932. Although the genus Ledebouria was established in 1811, it wasn’t until 1970 when John Peter Jessop revised the Scilla genus and moved Scilla socialis to the Ledebouria genus, and S. paucifolia and S. violacea became synonyms. I think it had something to do with their exposed bulbs and type of flowers. Then, Mr. William Louis Tjaden attempted to rename the “variety” with the violet leaf coloration to Ledebouria violacea using Scillia violacea as the basionym. He was apparently unsuccessful because Ledebouria violacea is also considered a synonym of Ledebouria socialis.
The Pacific Bulb Society has a list of six different cultivars of Ledebouria socialis. There is a lot of confusion as to what to actually call the many varieties. To me, if there are distinct naturally occurring plants reproducing in the wild, they should have names to reflect their differences. While, yes, they may be the same species, they are not all the same.
SOOOOO… Since this is my blog, I initially called these plants Ledebouria socialis (var. paucifolia) and Ledebouria socialis (var. violacea). I put the variety name in parenthesis even though that isn’t perfectly legit. 🙂 That way you could tell the difference between the two. The Pacific Bulb Society said they should be called by the cultivar name, but I was hesitant. I guess I was being somewhat of a rebel. 🙂 Anyway, I received a comment from a retired botanist/professor about another plant, and I sent him an email. We discussed using the cultivar name rather than the variety name a bit, and I realized his answer could be right.
I am open-minded (usually) and I have no clue what these plants look like in the wild. That would make sense and be less confusing since many species of Ledebouria have been in cultivation for probably close to 150 years. With so many years being grown as potted plants, I can see why cultivar names could (or should) be used. I have never been to Africa to see what percentage of the species is growing compared to the “varieties” or even how reliably they reproduce “true to seed”.
SO, I decided to go ahead and start using the cultivar names. It is probably best and less confusing for readers and much easier to explain. Maybe some of you won’t think I am an idiot either. 🙂
Hmmm… I can’t italicize the genus and species names using smaller photos in the gallery view…
Ledebouria socialis have bulbs that grow above the ground (epigeal). The bulbs peel which is said to help prevent water loss. The bulbs of Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’) are greenish in color while the bulbs of Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ are more of a purplish color.
When planting, make sure you leave at least 2/3 of the bulbs exposed. As long as they stand up. Over time, most of the bulbs will be exposed anyway.
Family: Asparagaceae (formerly in Hyacinthaceae).
Origin: South Africa.
Zones: USDA Zones 10a-11 (30-40° F).
Size: Around 6” tall.
Light: Light shade to shade.
Soil: Well-drained potting soil.
Water: Needs regular watering during the growing period but the soil needs to dry between watering. Needs the soil to be dry during the winter.
SOIL AND WATER: Ledebouria socialis should be planted with at least 2/3 of their bulbs exposed in a rich, well-draining potting mix. They should be watered thoroughly during the growing period but the soil needs to dry between watering.
LIGHT: The Pacific Bulb Society says Ledebouria needs filtered light and never in full sun. Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) says full sun to semi-shade but adapts to shade.
WINTER DORMANCY: The Pacific Bulb Society says Ledebouria needs to have a dry winter dormancy. They say (in many varieties) “a wet winter dormancy causes the plants to continue growing without replacing old leaves. When spring and summer come, the plant does not put out a new flush and will not flower.”
Well, I am a Ledebouria newbie so we are in an experimental period. I received my plants in October and did not water them at all until February 16 because the leaves were beginning to wilt. I also moved them to another room although they were fine where they had been where it was much cooler.
According to information I have read, the Ledebouria socialis is very easy to grow and favored by cactus and succulent enthusiasts.
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ was a larger plant with more bulbs from the beginning. From what I have read it is a faster-growing variety while the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ is slower growing.
This is one issue with reading information online. Some websites say the Ledebouria socialis is a slow-growing plant. If you look at the photos accompanying the information, you will see the plant they are talking about is the slower-growing cultivar. You can tell by the leaves…
As nighttime temps warmed up enough, I moved the potted plants outside for the summer. I put the Ledebouria on the front porch where plants are that need bright light but not full sun. That is light to part shade. They get direct sun only at certain times in the afternoon. They are very glad to be outside in the fresh air.
As you can see in this photo, the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ has silvery-green leaves with smaller dark green spots or flecks… The bulbs are also a greenish color. Oh, I said that before…
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ leaves are silver-green with larger dark green spots. The undersides of the leaves are kind of a maroonish-purple color. The stems and bulbs are also a purplish color. Yeah, I mentioned that before, too.
I took the two Ledebouria to the back porch on June 4 to re-pot and straighten up a bit.
New leaf emerging on the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’.
While the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ didn’t need a bigger pot, the ‘Violacea’ had grown a lot more. SO, it needed a larger pot.
You can see in this photo, there is a new “shoot” growing from the side of the bulb…
There are several new plants growing on the Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’…
Not sure what the purpose of this photo was… 🙂
In this photo, you can see the violet color of the undersides of the leaves of the Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’. The darkness of the color may be influenced by the amount of light they receive.
I lifted the cluster out of the pot and noticed how many roots it had. NICE!
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ is now in its new pot with fresh soil. A plant friend of mine wanted a start, so I removed one of the bulbs while I was at it. He is going to send a couple other cultivars. 🙂
I decided I would straighten this plant up a little and add fresh potting soil on June 4.
I noticed a couple of buds emerging on June 8. AWESOME!
The bud looks almost like a cluster of grapes at first.
Nice to see a bud on the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ as well on June 16.
By June 4 not only have the flowers opened, but you can see how the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ has grown.
The flowers are very small but still pretty neat, huh? These flowers are on the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’.
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ has really spread out.
The flowers on the Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ are the same as the other. No unique coloration for this variety.
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ continues to grow more new plants.
I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter on October 11 because an “F” was in the forecast. I always take photos of the plants when I move them inside. I always measure the cactus and some of the succulents.
Here in the above photo, you can see how well the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ has grown. It hasn’t grown near as fast as the other but it still looks great. Sometimes you may not want such a fast grower.
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ has grown and spread a little but it is still in the same pot as before. Maybe in the spring I will increase the pot size a little.
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ is a completely different story. Compare this photo with previous photos and you wouldn’t even think it was the same plant. It has grown like crazy! Even the bulb I removed is looking great. As I mentioned earlier, I removed the bulb for a plant collector who wanted a start of this plant and a few others I have. He was going to send me plants I didn’t have as well. I was ready to ship but he told me not to until I received the plants from him… He didn’t send it yet…
Temps are always up and down this time of the year. Sometimes I take plants outside for a photoshoot when the temps are warm enough. I was working on a post so I took several plants outside to get photos. You can see the difference in size between the two Ledebouria varieties.
I don’t like either plant more than the other. You might think the Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ looks better because it is a more robust grower.
You might like the larger green spots on its leaves over the smaller dots on the other variety.
One thing is for sure, the Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ does out-produce the Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’.
Now it is in December and the Ledebouria are in the cool bedroom for the remainder of the winter. They will have no water added for a while. They were in a warmer bedroom where they continued to grow. Their new leaves were growing long and weird which was a sign for me they needed to be put in the cooler bedroom so they could enter dormancy. They maybe should have already been in the other room by now, but you just never know.
I had to move the plants inside for the winter on October 15 because an “F” was in the forecast. As always, I took photographs and measurements as I brought the plants inside. I don’t measure all of the succulents but I do the cactus. Although succulent enthusiasts like Ledebouria, they are bulbous perennials in the plant family Asparagaceae. The Ledebouria socialis ‘Paucifolia’ did very well over the summer and flowered as before.
The Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ grows by leaps and bounds. I put in a larger pot because it was so cramped last year and it is close to filling it up. I still have the smaller pot of this variety and it has also spread quite a bit. This one didn’t flower this summer probably because I didn’t move it to the cool bedroom soon enough last winter so it could properly go dormant. They are all in the cool bedroom right off for the winter and I will do my best not to give them water. If you water, as I previously mentioned, they will continue to grow and not go dormant. Then their leaves will be long and skinny and they may not flower the next summer. Right now, they are growing long skinny leaves which is a no-no… 🙂
The hardest part about growing Ledebouria is not watering them over the winter. They are sitting on a table in a cool bedroom in front of a west-facing window. I have the Begonias, a few Tradescantia ssp, and the Oxalis on the table with them. The Begonias get water on occasion to keep them alive and only one pot of Oxalis get water because the ones in that pot don’t seem to want to go dormant… 🙂 The Ledebouria leaves are drooping and the bulbs are somewhat shriveled. I guess this is normal? Time will tell…
For sure the Ledebouria socialis ‘Violacea’ on the left has grown and spread MUCH faster than the L. socialis ‘Paucifolia’ on the right.
While taking photos on August 17, I noticed what appeared to be fruit…
I will continue adding more photos and experiences as time goes by.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. If you notice I made an error, please let me know. If you prefer to send an email, I am at firstname.lastname@example.org.