Babiana Stricta [ba-bee-AN-uh, STRIK-tuh] refers to a species of flowering plants in the Iridaceae family.
Originating from Cape Province and South Africa, Babiana stricta is a frost-tender plant known for bringing life to home gardens with its richly colored and fragrant flowers.
It’s also known by the following common names:
- Baboon Flower
- Blue Freesia
- Gladiolus Nervosus
- Ixia Plicata
The species got the name Babiana (Dutch for baboon) because baboons were seen eating the corms or base stems of these plants growing in forests and other wild areas.
Baboon Flower Care
Size & Growth
Babiana stricta is a bulbotuber or a cormous perennial featuring a straight and upright growth pattern.
With its short and stunted growth, a Babiana plant reaches an average height of 4” – 12” inches tall and spreads no more than 2” inches wide.
It takes approximately one year for this flowering tuber to reach its maximum height.
Its sleek and slender, erect stems bear lively green foliage consisting of narrow, lance-shaped leaves.
The leaves measure up to 5” inches long and have a hairy texture.
Being a deciduous shrub, the plant sheds its leaves when the bloom time is over.
Flowering and Fragrance
Starting from late spring or early summer, Babiana produces brightly colored fragrant blooms grouped in an inflorescence.
Five to six small trumpet-shaped flowers measuring about 2” inches in diameter grow on each flowering stem.
This spring-flowering rhizome comes in a variety of distinctive colors including plants bearing blooms of violet, magenta, deep blue, mauve, purplish-blue and other similar shades.
The petals feature a smooth coat of a single shade, or at times, are accentuated by streaks of white.
Some hybrids and cultivars of this plant produce a mix of multicolored blooms on the same plant.
The lemon-like scent makes these dazzling flowers all the more attractive.
Light & Temperature
Baboon stricta is suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10.
It performs well in temperate regions when planted in containers and kept at 41° degrees Fahrenheit (5° C) during the winter season.
The plant prefers full sun but grows equally well when planted under partial shade.
For best results, plant Baboon Flower in South or West-facing aspects.
Watering and Feeding
Babiana plants need an adequate amount of water, especially when it’s growing during the winter months.
Since it becomes dormant in the summer season, water requirements are reduced.
The plant benefits from periodic feeding of any general-purpose fertilizer.
Provide water-soluble plant feed regularly each year, both before and after the flowering season.
Preferably three weeks before bloom time.
Soil & Transplanting
Baboon flowers is suitable for a wide range of climates, but it thrives in sandy and loamy soil types.
The soil must be well-drained, and the pH level must be maintained close to 7 as acidic or alkaline soils affect the growth of the plant.
Grooming and Maintenance
When it comes to grooming and maintenance, this plant is truly trouble-free – it requires no pruning at all!
However, to stimulate growth, it’s a good practice to cut the flower bulbs back by a third.
How To Propagate Babiana Stricta
Baboon plant grow from seeds, but propagating by corms is another technique commonly used by gardeners who cannot wait to bring these blue beauties home.
For propagation by seed, the plant requires an ideal temperature of 55° – 59° degrees Fahrenheit (13° – 15° C).
- Sow the seeds immediately as they ripen in autumn.
- When the corms go dormant, remove the offsets and transfer them to the prepared pots.
- The pot or container must be at least 6” inches deep and contain equal parts of sandy soil and loam-based compost.
- Leave a minimum distance of 2” inches between two adjacent plants.
- The recommended number of bulbs per square foot is 12 -15.
Baboon Plants Pest or Disease Problems
Babiana stricta is usually resistant to most common garden pests and diseases.
However, it is not resistant to deer and critters and is also susceptible to attack from glasshouse red spider mites.
Baboon Flower is not considered a threat in terms of invasiveness but is believed to be a potentially invasive plant species.
The thick stem of this plant is a food source for animals such as baboons and has been known to be part of the diet of indigenous people.
However, it’s related to Cape Tulip, a highly toxic plant from the same origins.
Since there is not enough proof to establish the edibility of this plant, don’t consume it.
Baboon Flower Uses
Given its size and stature, Baboon Flower makes a fine addition to rock gardens.
It looks stunning when planted along walkways or used for edging.
Babiana is often used for wall-side borders or grouped with other perennials in the garden bed to create a captivating floral display.
If your USDA zone allows, combine it with amaryllis, hyacinths, dahlias or crocus for best results.