Steady as she goes

I’ve been meaning to repot my Poor Knights lily (Xeronema callistemon) for some time but have been so filled with trepidation that I kept putting it off. After 15 years plus of growing it and one flower two years ago I don’t want to upset it now.

But the poor thing had been in the same pot since I bought it and although they apparently like to be root bound I thought this might be pushing it.

I had to cut the pot off the plant.

Before I started, I did a quick Google search to see if there was any helpful advice floating around in the ether – and struck gold with the Tawapou Coastal Natives website which contains some information on growing conditions, including what to do if you see signs of root rot. The website makes the interesting observation on the Poor Knights islands the biggest plants (leaves up to 1.8m high) aren’t perched on the cliff faces in full sun, but are to be found in the shade of pohutukawa trees where they benefit from the rich droppings of seabirds (they’re even found growing in trees, where seeds have been dropped).

I opted to use a potting mix for succulents when repotting, thinking it would be a bit more “open” in terms of drainage, and a pot that was not too much bigger. A good water and a feed with some seaweed fertiliser … and fingers crossed.

When I was at the Kelliher Estate in Auckland recently (see Happy Birthday Yates), I spotted a water feature that included Xeronema callistemon as feature plants. The plants all looked healthy – some were in pots on top of the stone wall, one was planted in the vertical wall and some in a horizontal shelf. The plants not in pots presumably have a trickle of water around their roots all the time. Wonder if they flower?

Xeronema callistemon form part of a water feature at Kelliher Estate.

Wellington Botanic Gardens has a magnificent show of these plants, a lot of them planted on a slope to improve drainage and, so I was told, with metal thrown in the planting hole to help in that regard too.

Xeronema callistemon in Wellington Botanic Gardens.

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