The perils of being interesting: Albuca spiralis (updated Aug 2017)

Albucas are not the kind of plant most people fall in love with. They are rather demure little plants with grassy leaves and flowers that are usually in shades of green, brown, white or, in the more showy species, yellow. They typically have flowers in which the three outer petals open flat but the inner three remain closed with the tips touching. All albucas are native to Africa with a concentration of species in South Africa and the flowers are usually pendant or upward-facing on unbranched scapes. Most are winter growers which means that, in northern temperate climates they need to be grown in a frost-free greenhouse. They do not make good houseplants because they need more light than a typical window allows. Most die down in summer and should be kept dry. The most common species, in the UK at least, is A. shawii. It is a profusely blooming small plant with masses of fragrant flowers. It is easier than most because it is a summer-grower and if it can be protected from severe frost in winter it can be grown outside in a sunny, well-drained spot. I have grown it many times in pots in a cool greenhouse and it grows well and even seeds around. The flowers are quite showy and it is a consumer-friendly albuca in contrast to some of the more subtle species which are what are politely called ‘collector’s plants’. This description is on a par with the word ‘interesting’. I remember many years ago when I was a student at Kew when we were encouraged to give short talks about plants before the ‘main feature’ at the weekly ‘Kew Mutuals’ that ‘interesting’ was the word used to describe a plant when it had no other merit – an observation made by the terrifying but knowledgeable and unique Brian Halliwell (Assistant Curator) who passed away this year in April. Apart from their ‘interesting’ blooms, some albucas also have curious leaves. The most startling of these is Albuca spiralis which is native to the Western Cape Province. It is generally a short plant with leaves that grow upright at first but then curl round and round as if they have been in curlers for a while (I am showing my age here and the fact that I grew up watching Hilda Ogden – today it should be curling tongs I guess). The effect is either of a bunch of green springs or ringlets. It is a desirable plant but not commonly available. Until now. albuca frizzle2 You can guess my excitement when I popped into the local garden centre and there on the counter, waiting to be put out for sale was a tray of Albuca spiralis! Obviously someΒ  European grower has selected a strong form of this and managed to propagate it and grow it so well that it is acceptable for general sale. albuca frizzle Now the fact that a garden centre stocks a plant does not mean it is a good plant to grow. Every garden centre sells kangaroo paws in summer (anigozanthus) but I am sure these all die within a few months if not weeks. As I said earlier, Albuca spiralis is a summer-dormant plant so it is worrying that it is in bloom now. Is this a new evergreen form? Is it out of sync and will it remain so? Will it remain green all winter and then go dormant next summer? I will have to watch the plant and see what it wants to do. Anyway the plant was showing a few flower spikes when I bought it but now, about two weeks later, the first flowers are open. They are large and attractive and definitely taller than most images of the wild plant suggest even though my plants are in good light and not at all etiolated. Scape height is about 20cm but should extend to about 30cm when the last flowers open I should think. albuca frizzle sizzle fls3 Most descriptions describe the fragrance of the flowers as like butter but I am not sure about that. It seems to be rather medicinal to me and slightly ‘wintergreen’ish. I am not that keen. But it is not strong so will not put me off the plant. Is it my fertile imagination or do the flowers look like Martian death rays! albuca frizzle sizzle fls4 Some ‘clever marketing person’ came up with the name of ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ for the plant, a name that is already used for a frilly pansy. I am sure that ‘Curler Whirler’ would have been more appropriate (since a Curly Wurly is a different thing altogether) or ‘Spaghetti Yeti’. albuca frizzle sizzle fls2 Anyway, it’s a nice little plant and is giving me a lot of pleasure: and being interesting is better than nothing.

Update: August 2015

Since I originally wrote this post my plant has continued to grow with no signs of becoming dormant at any time. I have not repotted. It has been on a south-facing windowsill of the house all the time and had a flush of flowers in spring but sends up another spike every now and then. It has two now. It is kept moist but I do not worry if it dries out a bit – it is one of the least demanding of the houseplants I have. It is useful because it is a plant that will grow on a south-facing windowsill and has a hibiscus, some cacti and a sanseveria as neighbours. It is given a liquid feed about once every two weeks. Despite its sunny spot I think it could do with better light because the leaves are a bit ‘drawn’ and narrow compared to when it was bought and not nearly as curly. In Ireland (and other parts of the world with limited sunlight) I think it would be better in a greenhouse and I am almost tempted to try it outside in summer. But I will have to divide it so I have more than one plant before I risk that.


Update: March 2016

This post has proved to be the most popular I have written (though that may be because of a spelling mistake in the update above when I wrote that ‘my pant has continued to grow’ – now corrected! The albuca is still on the south-facing windowsill and I have not divided it or repotted it as I had planned. It is usually allowed to dry out between waterings and it is watered with rain water and given a high potash fertiliser along with all the houseplants. It does not show any signs of wanting a winter or summer rest. It is now producing seven flower spikes.

Update: August 2017

Well a lot happened to my plant in the past 18 months. I returned to the UK in June 2016 and misjudged what I could get in the van! As a result a lot of plants got left behind including my beloved albuca. As fate would have it, I returned to Ireland exactly a year to the day and am back for good this time. So what happened to the albuca?

Well it was left out all winter among other plants in a tray. Left in the open to the Irish winter with rain and frost. So what did I find when I came back?

To my surprise, the plant had survived. The pot was packed with foliage and the bulbs, which were now near the compost surface with their upper surface exposed, had survived apart from where they had been scoured by slugs and snails.

albuca spiral mar 17

I immediately knocked them out of the pot and repotted them. I used a mix with some loam, coarse organic matter and Perlite. There was a mix of large bulbs, mid-sized bulbs and some tiny ones. I potted some of the biggest into 9cm square pots, some smaller ones in groups of three and a few larger pots with some of the best looking bulbs. Now, about two months later, they are all growing well.

albuca spiral aug 173

They have nicely curly leaves and some are sending up flower spikes. It will encourage me to try some outside when I have suitable conditions (full sun and well drained soil). But it does confirm that this is an easy plant and will withstand a few degrees of frost without being killed.

albuca spiral aug 17

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130 Comments on “The perils of being interesting: Albuca spiralis (updated Aug 2017)”

  1. joy
    June 25, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    a definite interesting curler whirler

  2. Ken James (@Kjames7170)
    June 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    My nose says the scent is that of green olives, although I have also heard it described as vanilla.

    • thebikinggardener
      June 25, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

      I just went and had a sniff and I would agree with you! There is definitely more than a hint of green olives – which is appropriate given that the flower colour is almost olive green too. Not sure about any vanilla overtones though. Definitely olive though πŸ™‚

      • Siobhan Moore
        October 13, 2019 at 2:46 am #

        Just had a sniff of mine and agree with a definite olive smell, debating on repotting, our should I wait for our autumn (Aus)

        • thebikinggardener
          October 14, 2019 at 7:19 pm #

          I would be inclined to do it now, in spring, as long as it is actively growing. This is supposed to be a winter-growing species, which would suggest that autumn is the right time to repot but I find that it grows and flowers throughout summer.

    • thebikinggardener
      June 25, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      I just visited your nursery website too – awe-inspiring range of plants!

  3. josette
    April 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    I just received mine from a garden center last weekend. It is flowering & interesting. THe other day I found my kitchen to smell chemically. It’s the flowers. So I found you looking to find information on this flower just in case it might be harmful. We live in Quebec Canada, not sure it would enjoy our winter. HOwever, we will see if it will grown indoors. It’s sold as an annual.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

      Thank you for stopping by. A year on I can report that it is still doing well on a sunny windowsill and has flowered well this spring. I do not think it would survive any frost but is fine as a windowsill plant and is evergreen. πŸ™‚

      • josettel
        February 14, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

        THroughout the winter I stopped watering because it’s leaves were rotting. Now with longer days, new leaves have sprouted and now beginning to curl.

        I think we won’t be letting it flower this year. Don’t appreciate it’s chemically smell.

        • thebikinggardener
          February 14, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

          I reduce watering in winter but it stays evergreen and I give it a little. Poor light here means the leaves are only twisted at the ends.

      • Deborah Weisz
        December 3, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

        Hi there, I live in Sydney Australia and our summers are very hot, long with high humidity. I get full sun all day in my garden. Will the albuca spiralis do well in our humidity? We have cold winters with low humidity. We have summer now. Can I sow the seeds now or is winter best? What would happen if I sow now? What is the best method for sowing and how long before they shoot? I want some for myself and also selling! I can buy one for $AUD30 but can buy 5 seeds for $5. Thanks,

        • thebikinggardener
          March 2, 2018 at 5:12 pm #

          Albucas generally do not like high humidity but I am growing them in Ireland! When you say ‘cold’ winters – is that below 0c? that would be a problem but otherwise they would be OK. I have most of mine in a cool greenhouse that is just frost free. I know from experience that they will take a few degrees of frost is necessary. In theory they rest in summer and are winter-growing but as I find them more or less evergreen unless forced to rest, I think you could sow at any time. Albuca seeds usually germinate freely so they should not need special treatment. They should germinate in a month and look like chives at first. I would suspect that they would flower in their second or third year if grown well.

  4. cinditaegan2
    July 11, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    I transplanted mine a few days ago and alas! the spirals are turning brown! Help! I left it in it’s original (very small rocks) soil and put regular soil around it. Perhaps I over-watered? Perhaps suffering the transition? Any suggestions?

    • thebikinggardener
      July 11, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      I am sorry to hear your albuca is looking sad! This could be down to overwatering if you used a peat-based, multipurpose compost but it seems a bit quick to me. I have found it very easy so I am surprised the leaves have gone brown. I would have expected them to go yellow first. Since overwatering is likely to be the commonest reason for it dying perhaps you potted it into too large a new pot and it is too wet. I would be inclined to put it back in the original pot and let it dry out. ALthough mine has been evergreen for two years now it may naturally die back and rest and, in theory, this should happen in the summer in the Northern hemisphere. So I would keep it drier and see what it tells you it wants to do and if it wants to die down let it and keep it dry for a few months and then repot into a well drained compost(like cactus compost) in August and start it into growth again.

  5. Sherbert
    August 2, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    Thanks for your information on this plant. I have just purchased it from a nursery in rural Victoria Australia. African bulbs usually do well here so I will add it to my garden of nerines

    • thebikinggardener
      August 2, 2015 at 9:34 am #

      I am glad I could help πŸ™‚

      • Sherbert
        May 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

        In supposed late autumn in Victoria Australia my spirillis has just shot and, in our warmer than usual weather it is curling well. It is potted and has been outside since buying it last August. It coped in dormancy with several 40 Centigrade days without cooking in the pot- not in a black pot.

        Success down in the south – always feel this when a bulb comes back well in Teat 2


  6. carol
    November 29, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    I have just bought mine, I found a baby shoot so am going to transplant it and see how I go.//I am keeping my plant on a windowsill where there is lots of light.//

    • thebikinggardener
      November 30, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

      Well done πŸ™‚ I would not be in too much of a hurry to remove offsets in case the little bulb does not have its own roots yet

      • carol
        December 1, 2015 at 12:51 am #

        I am too impatient,that is my trouble, but I did look for roots 1st.///p

  7. Kalamain
    December 2, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I’ve had my Albuca for a year now. I grew it from seed and I had a flower spike this year that grew to 39″ long! O.o

    The plant has not faded back at all yet. When I looked it up on the internet it said it faded back in the summer and, well, mine didn’t. In fact it’s just started putting out a new stock of leaves.
    Not only that but I am having to re-pot it because its grown so fast its distorted the pot!

    To say I am confused is an understatement!
    Great post, BTW!

    • thebikinggardener
      December 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

      Well done for growing it from seed – how long did that take? And that is one seriously tall spike! Yes, I find that it is evergreen – plants do not always do what they are supposed to do. I am sure that keeping it growing all year would shorten the time it took to bloom. Thank you for your kind comment.

      • Kalamain
        December 2, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

        I planted 4 seeds last year so it would sprout by the wife’s birthday (October) and now a year later it’s well established!
        That was my post a few weeks ago.

        I think there is an issue in that this isn’t South Africa. We don’t have that scorching hot sun and dry air so the plants here don’t HAVE to shut down so they don’t.

        • thebikinggardener
          December 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

          that is good going, getting it to bloom in a year – if only all bulbs flowered so quickly from seed!

          • Kalamain
            December 2, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

            I have zero clue what I did that got it to grow so well.

            • thebikinggardener
              December 2, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

              Well. looking at your blog I think it was more than luck! And the plant obviously had good light for the leaves to be nice and spiralled.

              • Kalamain
                December 2, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

                I’m very happy with it. I just hope it does as well next year…. Maybe even find a way to propagate it!

      • Kalamain
        December 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

        Ooops… Bad link.

        Try that

    • Kate Greene
      April 3, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

      Sounds like a good problem to have . . . That it is growing so fast it has distorted the pot.

      • Kalamain
        April 3, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

        Yeah, I had to repot it later on. The bulb was huge and had compacted the soil in one side!

        • thebikinggardener
          April 3, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

          Well done. It seems that if you get it to survive the first week or two it is easy and reliable and people like it!

          • Kalamain
            April 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

            Yup… It’s definitely a simple plant to keep going.

            I’m getting to the point now where I feel I need to trim leaves that have unfurled. Some are starting to look more like Dracaena leaves!

            • thebikinggardener
              April 3, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

              I think that straight leaves are the result of poor light and are likely to appear after winter. As the light gets better they should start getting more curly.

              • Kalamain
                April 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

                Oh. Fair enough. Just one of the problems with being in the UK during the winter months.
                Thanks for clearing that one up!

  8. karoohoodia
    February 13, 2016 at 7:20 am #

    I am joining a bit late in the comments here. The genus Albuca still needs much work to be done by taxonomists. Interestingly enough many plants displayed on the web as Albuca spiralis are probably not that species. There are a number of species of Albuca with spiral leaves, some indeed look pretty similar, and some are most likely undescribed. One notable feature of Albuca spiralis is that it has glands on the leaves (Also shared by some other species). Your beautiful plant seems to lack these glands and is probably a different species. I am presently studying the spiral Albucas to see if any of the smooth leaved ones have names.

    • thebikinggardener
      February 13, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      Thank you for your interesting comments. I am not a taxonomist and did not know about the glands on the leaves so I am grateful for your update. Thank you and good luck with your research.

      • karoohoodia
        February 14, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

        Thanks. I am studying one of the smooth leaved ones at present. Will let know I find a names.

  9. karoohoodia
    February 14, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    sorry ‘name’

    • josettel
      February 14, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

      I haven’t noticed any glands on my leaves either. As it matures this summer, I’ll take a better look.

      • thebikinggardener
        February 14, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

        Nor me – I must look more closely. Thank you for commenting.

  10. Kate Greene
    April 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    I received my first Frizzle Sizzle by way of my son. You know how some parents end up taking on pets when their offspring move away? Well my son brought hundreds of succulents to my house for me to take care of. The albuca is the only one that has caught my eye and I have become obsessed! As an artist I am intrigued by the shadows cast by this plant. I could take hundreds of pictures. . . and then it bloomed. I don’t like the bloom at all. It is finished its blooming. Can I cut the stalk? I just want my green spirals back!

  11. Kate Greene
    May 3, 2016 at 12:42 am #

    In a months time my beautiful frizzle has had a good number of its spirals have the tips turn reddish brown. I am so sad. Have I over-watered? Too much heat? Too much sun? I did put it in an outside location where it had full sun. Suggestion?

    • thebikinggardener
      May 3, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

      It depends where you are growing this. I would say that full sun is Ok but if the plant has been inside and is then put in full sun outside the leaves will get scorched and the leaf tips may die. Remember that as new leaves grow the older leaves will naturally die so some leaf tips browning is natural. I suspect that the plant may be dry – too much water would probably result in yellowing leaves – but it is better to er on the side of dryness. I find it gets through quite a lot of water in summer when it is growing.

  12. Charlene
    June 23, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    I purchased this plant (2 of them) about 2 months ago max. It has not grown any flower spikes, the leave tips have gone brown, and I have it in a east facing window…I have only watered it once (twice max) since I received them. Do you know how long it takes to get a flower spike? I live in NYC so we are having pretty warm weather, nice and sunny (they both sit on my windowsill), and I’m assuming based on the website that I purchased it from (Logee’s) that the leaves browning means a flower spike is a comin’ lol. do you have any thoughts?

    • thebikinggardener
      June 24, 2016 at 8:28 am #

      Hello and thanks for your comments. I think that an east-facing window may be a bit shady. I am not at all sure that I agree that brown leaves is a good sign and that it means flowering is on its way. I found that it needs lots of water and I feed it while it is growing and it flowers most in spring and early summer. I would definitely water a lot more because you don’t want it to die back because, in my experience it only flowers when it is growing well. I find that it is more or less evergreen though it can be forced to die back if you withhold water which you are basically doing.

      • Charlene
        June 24, 2016 at 11:59 am #

        Wow…thank you for the quick response and the informative info. I watered them yesterday really well and will put them in my west facing window since that gets sun for most of the day (afternoon sun).
        I will also pay better attn to when I water. My belief was these plants are succulents so give them less water. But then after doing further research (your page and a few others) I saw that I need to water more often than what I’m doing. The ends are curling but they are brown. And when I Terra’s what Logee’s said…I might have misquoted them.
        Either way thank you for responding and helping me with keeping my plants happy and “alive!!”
        I will follow up with you when they bloom 😊

    • Kimberly Taylor
      December 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

      The directions that came with my plant was to water once weekly, this did well for me in full all day hot sunlight. He came in a pot with almost no soil. He now has more soil in a new pot and I’ve over watered with less sun and more soil. Bad idea. I’d say more heat & sunlight more water, less sun and cooler temps much less water. Good luck!

      • thebikinggardener
        December 11, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

        I agree – more soil means it will dry out less frequently so be careful. I would say that cool is good, especially in winter if light is poor but I have had no problems with full sun.

  13. Ron Sutton
    July 18, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    Hello I have just bought this plant here in UK with 3 flower spikes
    Some pictures of this plant show the bulb sitting on top of the pot and others show it covered
    Just wonder whether anyone has any comments about this?

    • thebikinggardener
      July 18, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

      Thank you for visiting. When I bought my plant the bulbs were buried but over the years these have moved in the soil so the tops are more or less at the surface. I don’t think that planting depth is too important but I would keep them no more than 3cm deep I think.

  14. Ron Sutton
    July 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    I have just bought this plant here in the UK with 3 flower spikes
    Some pictures show the bulb sitting on top of the plant and covered in others
    Does anyone have a comment t about this?

  15. Rhona
    July 24, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    So glad I found your blog. I’ve had my frizzle for 2 months now and love it. Agree about the scent, sometimes reminds me of lilies that have past their best. Mine has just finished flowering so I’ve been searching the web for what to do. Now I know.😊

    • thebikinggardener
      July 24, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

      thank you for your comment and thank you for visiting πŸ™‚ Good luck with it!

  16. Miss Peg
    July 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    Thank you for the informative, and updated, post! I’ve just purchased this plant and did a quick Google search in hope of some useful information on how to care for her. Being in England, I think we have similar climates which makes me feel even more comfortable with what you’ve said. I will certainly take on board how you’ve treated your plant, and try to emulate it. Thanks again, it’s put my mind at ease that I can (hopefully) keep the plant on my bedroom windowsill (it gets plenty of light) or if it’s struggling, move to another windowsill where I know it’ll have an even better light source. I’ll also purchase some plant food! Happy Albuca Spiralis-ing!

    • thebikinggardener
      July 25, 2016 at 9:01 am #

      Thank you too – I hope you get a lot of pleasure out of your plant

  17. Kate Greene
    July 25, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

    I am happy to say my original Frizzle and the three I subsequently bought are alive! I thought I had lost them all. My usual MO when that happens is to plants is to ignore them. I am seeing tiny green shoots! I love this plant. You may recall from earlier post that I inherited a bunch of succulents from my son. I am finding other homes for them now after 6+ months but definitely keeping the Frizzle Sizzles!

    • thebikinggardener
      July 25, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

      It is great news that your plants are all doing well and are alive! shame about the other poor plants but glad you are keeping the albucas πŸ™‚

  18. Linda A Goddard
    August 3, 2016 at 9:53 pm #

    Hi! I bought one of these plants in early spring, never having seen one before. It is on my deck which faces south west, and has been growing well. I have one flower stalk, with another coming. I have a question. Once the flowers are done blooming, will the stalk fall off? Do I prune it? Or just leave it alone? I will mention that I live in New England, USA. I plan on taking it inside and putting it in my south facing window for the winter.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 4, 2016 at 8:15 am #

      In my experience the flower scape will not fall off but go brown and will need to be cut off at the base. I tidy the plant up now and then and pull off the old, dead leaves too. I think that taking the plant into a sunny windowsill before the first frosts is a good plan.

  19. Linda A Goddard
    August 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    Thank you!

  20. Hazel Bell
    September 3, 2016 at 4:50 am #

    Just got my first Albuca spiralis from Trader Joe’s of all places ! I live in Miami, Florida, US. SO excited about these little guys ! I bought several, hoping to propagate and sell at our tree farm in Homestead. Great and informative article and comments. Thank you so much !

    • thebikinggardener
      September 3, 2016 at 8:44 am #

      thank you and good luck with your plants. You should be able to get seeds, with luck, and then can grow hundreds of babies! I never had seeds on mine but did not hand pollinate. I am not sure if the plants are self-sterile or not but if you have two plants that may help though as most plants sold here look like the same clone I am not sure. But they should increase by offsets.

  21. Ruth M
    September 18, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    I live in Australia in the subtropic (500k north of
    Sydney) and mine grows beautifully outside in a pot..

    • thebikinggardener
      September 19, 2016 at 8:38 am #

      Thst’s interesting – what is your coldest night temperature?

  22. Sharon L.
    October 6, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    I thought these plants looked interesting as well. It’s nice that yours is so hardy and robust. lol I liked reading the updates too. I feel invested in this plant! May it live a long and healthy life (and you too of course lol).

  23. Kimberly Taylor
    December 11, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    I purchased mine @ trader joes of all places! I walked in and couldn’t resist. I have an amazing green thumb & I’m finding difficulty with this guy. He came in a very small plastic pot with hardly any soil & that pot was inside of a clay pot. I had him at work on a very thin window sill in full sun, he was doing great until the clay pot broke. I’ve since placed him in a mixture of vermiculite & African Violet soil as it was the closest thing they had to cactus soil at my hardware store. I wasn’t thrilled about this soil option but hoped 50/50 with the vermiculite would be sufficient for drainage. I took him back to work in a small pot & used a grow light since I moved offices and no longer had the window, nor would the new pot fit on the window sill in my old office. His curls became tall and light green straight shoots, they fall outwards & I’ve had to tie him up loosely to keep it upright. The old curls were brown and I removed them to allow for the plant to focus on new growth. I’m pretty sure he is in a sense of shock with the moving around and new soil. I’ve probably over watered also. I’ve considered a little fertilizer to give him a boost but the soil had some in it, which I hate. Miracle Grow soil has always failed me & personally is an over priced hoax. I’ve brought him home and placed him in my breakfast nook which has moderate sunlight, which I know isn’t enough! But my new house has very little sunlight coming through the windows & the frost has set in outside for the winter. I’m going to let him rest for about 7 to 10 days with no water and see if he perks up. Does anyone think fertilizer might assist me or go with my gut & allow for drying out & adjustment to now his 3rd home in 3 months? I’ve always used Ferti-lome 9-59-8 on anything sick or experiencing the “ugly sad already bloomed once this year & needs a perk up to stay pretty for the season” syndrome. Maybe in a few weeks or let him rest for the winter without food? Fertilizer on a plant attempting to go dormant can be detrimental. I’ll update you on the outcome! Love your blog!! I’ll be a serious follower!!

    • thebikinggardener
      December 11, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

      thank you for your comments – and the detailed account! If you are letting the plant go dormant you should not feed. This is a plant that is usually winter-growing but lack of light is an issue and if you have already forced dormancy I would go with that and restart in a few weeks as light increases. I thin kit was lack of light that led to the straggly, thin leaves before. that fertiliser is interesting – very high in phosphates – which should be OK for bulbs though I would go for something high in potash (the last number) myself. Good luck anyway πŸ™‚

  24. Dyana
    December 16, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    I bought a fizzle sizzle not long ago and planted it and put it on a coffee table with lots of sheered curtain windows. Tips started turning brown so I replanted it in a well drained small pot on its own and put it in a sunny window as I was thinking since the tips were turning brown, it needed more sun. Now it’s even more brown. You’ve mentioned this happens but didn’t mention should we cut the tops off? But that’s the best part of the plant….are the curls! But they are brown! I bought them online from a company across the country in California and I’m in Georgia and they were sent bare root. I potted it immediately. But after a day or two of seeing the tops turning brown, I replanted it.

    • thebikinggardener
      December 16, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

      Hello. Thank you for stopping by. If your plants arrived bare root while in growth, I am not at all surprised that the leaf tips went brown. Bulb roots do not branch like the roots of other plants so the ends which do all the water absorption would be damaged or even broken off and it is not till new roots grow that the plant can be expected to recover. Although I would not recommend a spot on a coffee table (the windowsill is better) in this case, the shade would have been beneficial to help the plant recover. So – yes, cut off the leaf tips but now keep it in a bright spot. Be careful with the watering and allow it to JUST dry out before watering again. Leaf curling is best when the plant is in bright light which may be an issue at this time of year but when spring arrives the new growth will be better – good luck

      • Kimberly Taylor
        December 16, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

        Thank you. I cut all of the sprouts off & noticed the roots have increased dramatically! So I’m letting him focus on root growth & when he’s ready sprout me some new pretty curls! πŸ™‚

  25. Dyana
    December 16, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

    Thank you SO much! I had been searching ALL over the internet with no answers on what to do!!!

  26. Laura Pridgen
    January 3, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I purchased my albuca spiralis at Trader Joe’s several months ago. It is in my South facing kitchen window sill and appears to be doing well. I have no bloom yet, but looking forward to one! It’s in a very small pot. Should I consider a slightly larger pot at some point? I live in North Carolina.

    • thebikinggardener
      January 4, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      As we come into spring I would think about repotting it but only into a pot one size bigger – about 1inch wider in diameter and I would use a free-draining compost such as cactus compost. I am sure it will flower soon.

  27. J Jones
    January 17, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

    I just purchased one of these, had never seen one before. Advice from the nursery was not re-pot it yet, as it blooms better when root bound. They told me I could keep it inside, in a sunny spot, as long as we kept a cool house. Then, if I choose, it may go to the outside garden as long as I cover it in winter when it gets below 25 F. I think I’d like to enjoy it inside. It’s such a curious and delightful plant.

    • thebikinggardener
      January 19, 2017 at 8:30 am #

      hello. I would agree that it is better not to repot too early – it also helps to avoid overwatering it. I would agree that it is best outside in summer – the foliage will be shorter and tighter curled in good light – but I would be worried about exposing it to any frost – anything below 40f (3 or 4c) would worry me!

  28. Nancy May
    February 6, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    My Frizzle leaves uncurled and now it just looks grassy. Shortly after it put up a green flower or bud. I can’t tell if it’s going to stay green or something else will happen. What have I done to cause the leaves to unfrizzle?? It is in a window with full sun and I water it a little every week.

    • thebikinggardener
      February 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

      I am not sure where you are gardening but generally the production of straight leaves is down to lack of light. Even a sunny windowsill will provide limited light in winter in the Northern hemisphere. Hopefully, as the days lengthen, it will produce more normal leaves. The green buds should open to yellow flowers.

    • Kate Greene
      February 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm #

      So glad you asked! Having the same problem here in Savannah, Georgia.

      • thebikinggardener
        February 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

        It is nothing to worry about too much!

        • Kate Greene
          February 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

          So glad I put them back outside on my front porch! Curling up!!! Trying to post a photo but don’t see uploadπŸ’œ

  29. thebikinggardener
    February 14, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

    Hello Kate – glad to hear they are behaving themselves now πŸ™‚

    • Kate
      February 14, 2017 at 3:14 pm #


    February 19, 2017 at 1:40 am #

    i have a plant it gets morning sun in Queensland Australia flowers a lot and is growing new little plants from mother plant i dont want to take any of the babies off incase i kill it it gets a little water now n again but i have never fertalized it the leaves curl up tight

    • thebikinggardener
      February 19, 2017 at 9:35 am #

      I think the leaves are nice and curly because of the high light intensity. I would leave the babies with mother until they are larger. Unless you need lots of individual plants I would say that a group of plants together looks better, for a year or two anyway.

    February 19, 2017 at 1:46 am #


  32. Terri
    April 3, 2017 at 12:41 am #

    What specific fertilizer are you using and how often? I love my Frizzle Sizzle but not the flowers and have it under grow lights (dark basement condo) so I’d like to encourage more frizzle growth!

    • thebikinggardener
      April 3, 2017 at 7:45 am #

      I don’t use any specific fertiliser but anything that is high in potassium and low in nitrogen would be suitable – anything that is sold for flowering plants rather than leafy plants will be fine. In theory, if you want leaves and not flowers you would apply a high nitrogen feed but these are not good for bulbs and would encourage long, floppy leaves which, in my opinion, might not curl as much

  33. Diane Firestone
    April 8, 2017 at 12:00 am #

    I’ve had an Albuca Cape Star for several years. I live in Denver, Colorado. The plant has been thriving. I put it outside after the last freeze/frost, usually right around Mother’s Day and it stays out till the first frost warning in the fall. It has definitely grown, going from only one bloom the first year, to nine this year. I actually was checking out your site to find out about dividing the bulbs. The pot they are in is pretty full. On the other hand, the plant is very healthy. So I guess the question is to repot or not? If I should repot, any helpful hints?

    • thebikinggardener
      April 8, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      In theory this plant should be resting in summer but in my experience it is evergreen. But as it should rest after flowering I would suggest that is the best time to repot. You could carefully divide it too but keep it dry for a week after this so that any damaged part dry and do not rot with immediate watering. I would use a very free-draining compost such as a cactus compost.

  34. Ann James
    May 1, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

    I fell for the spiralis a year ago when I noticed it for sale..when buying it I commented that, for a desert plant, it was looking rather wet…the response was a shrug. One by one the leaves rotted and died off, and I put the pot outside last Autumn among others to dispose of the soil. To my amazement I noticed a leaf emerging last month – now there are it can’t be summer dormant! Should I bring it inside?

  35. Jilanne Hoffmann
    May 23, 2017 at 2:47 am #

    I just bought one of these frizzles at a San Francisco, CA nursery. They said it had been greenhouse grown. Now, I’m wondering if I should repot it in succulent soil mix and take it outside with my other succulents that do just fine throughout our tepid and rainy winter season—the opposite time of year to South Africa. I would assume that the plant would adjust to our climate, since it doesn’t care whether its winter is in December or June.

    Or maybe I should put it in a southern facing glassed in porch that gets extremely warm in the afternoon and evening. That may be too much sun, though. Decisions. Decisions. I do love it’s curlicues. There is dirt covering its bulb. Am wondering if I should expose the bulb a bit more to avoid rot. Any suggestions? In any case, I’m excited to see what happens with it.

  36. ichishironeko
    August 9, 2017 at 4:14 am #

    Hello: I just purchased my Albuca spiralis plants yesterday. I have never seen them, but happened to stop by a favorite nursery. I was captivated by their little curly heads, just like mine. I live 20 minutes north of San Francisco, California. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and flower. I usually leave my cacti and succulents on the front porch, and they do well. I’ll have to keep an eye out as the weather changes, and bring in the “Frizzle Sizzle” if it looks like it will become to cold. It’s reads we get frost. According to articles I’ve read, the plants are supposed to be “hardy” in US Agriculture zones 8-10. I am in zone 9. Thank you for the brilliant post. Very informative and helpful. The plants are time, but I’ll keep you posted as to how they fare.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

      I am glad you visited and liked the post. I have updated it and you will see that I can confirm that it does indeed tolerate a little frost. I think that it will enjoy cacti as neighbours.

  37. Miss Peg
    August 27, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    I moved house and I am so happy for my plant. I got TWO lots of flowers at the same time this year. I only got one flower at a time before. I think I’m also ready to split the bulb, which I’m nervous about – but I see some advice in the comments, so I will look at doing this once the flowers have gone.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 28, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

      As the plant gets older and splits into several bulbs you should get more flower spikes. As you can see from the update to my post, it is tolerant of being divided – I have over a dozen pots from my original one!

  38. Janet Busse
    September 21, 2017 at 6:09 am #

    i have had my albuca for 15 months now and it has never gone dorment i just love it its a very unusual plant from sunny Queensland Australia

    • thebikinggardener
      September 21, 2017 at 7:49 am #

      Congratulations on your success with it. It is interesting to see how it does in different areas of the world.

  39. Jean Starr
    January 11, 2018 at 8:09 pm #

    I found one in February 2017 at a garden shop in Phoenix, AZ. I thought I’d killed it during the summer because it lost its leaves. I had it outside and open to rain, but in its small pot, it didn’t get waterlogged. Then, in September or so, it started sprouting leaves and now has a flower spike. Thanks for your updates!

    • thebikinggardener
      March 2, 2018 at 5:05 pm #

      That is interesting that in a hotter, drier climate it is doing as it should and having a summer rest. In theory this is what it should do but mine is green all year round. It seems to be pretty easy to accommodate whatever the climate

  40. Rhonda Lagoni-Schwoegler
    January 25, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

    Do you leave the bulb exposed. My Corkscrew Albuca (Albuca spiralis) is drooping. Also do you fertilize in the winter?

    • thebikinggardener
      March 2, 2018 at 5:04 pm #

      All those I have seen for sale have the tops of the bulbs just covered with compost. Now I have lots to play with I have most of them with the tops of the bulbs just exposed but that is more down to sloppy watering than by design. I do not feed in winter since I have most in a cool greenhouse which is just frost-free and I dont water much at the moment either. The problem with feeding now is that It might encourage too much growth with poor light levels and encourage lanky, straight leaves

  41. Paulette
    February 24, 2018 at 7:08 pm #

    Glad to have found this! I bought my a.s. Frizzle sizzle off a local Facebook group, believe it or not, for $5 (US). My son picked it up for me and, haha, when he delivered it he said that he was sorry, it didn’t look too good, very small and scraggly, and was a waste of $5. I was thrilled anyway, and told him, β€œjust wait.” Now it is blooming beautifully in a southern window here in the middle of a Wisconsin winter. The leaves, though, barely curl at the tips. I suspect it wants more light.

    • thebikinggardener
      March 2, 2018 at 5:01 pm #

      Yes I suspect it needs more light to get more curly but the fact that it was a bargain and is blooming is great! Thank you for messaging and good luck with it.

  42. Beth
    July 21, 2018 at 9:17 am #

    DO you cut back the stems after flowering?

  43. Chris Buckingham
    July 29, 2018 at 10:01 am #

    Well ! You seem to have hit on a very popular plant here, I bought one of these at a market as it looked a very interesting, and maybe challenging plant to cultivate, I saved some of the seeds that it produced and planted them in pots on the windowsill, never expecting them to grow as I had only the one plant, to my surprise up came new shoots like grass ! I thought it so unlikely that they would germinate that I did not even takes notes, both the seedlings, and the original plant are growing well 1 year after I bought them, and they sit on the windowsill at 45 degs (C) at the moment,(Southern France), now it is time to plant on the new bulblets, I know they would like a free draining soil, 50/50 compost/grit, but how deep should they be planted ?

  44. Lori
    August 9, 2018 at 3:26 pm #

    I’m so glad I found this blog post. I’d never heard of or seen a frizzle sizzle before and discovered it in my local garden centre and fell in love! I don’t understand how anyone couldn’t like them.

    Anyway, sadly mine seems to be going dormant as all of a sudden the leaves have started to go brown and die off. Strangely it’s continuing to grow and is happily flowering whilst the leave go brown!

    It is in a bay window with tonnes of light and I’m in England.

    Do I just leave the leaves to die off and let it do it’s thing or do I cut them off?

  45. Zandra
    June 24, 2019 at 6:53 pm #

    I recently acquired one of these plants, I had to order online as no local nurseries had it.
    When it got to me, there was one flower stem broken in the process. Can I replant this stem for a second plant??

    • thebikinggardener
      June 25, 2019 at 6:30 am #

      You cannot plant the flower stem to make a new plant but it may bloom if you put it in water. The plant itself will not be harmed and will grow as normal. In fact, without the effort put into flowering it may grow more vigorously.

  46. Leila
    July 13, 2019 at 11:51 pm #

    I have had one of these for a couple of years now in plenty of light and it has been a delight. A few months ago the leaves became less and less curly and so long that although green are droopy due to weight… Help!

    • thebikinggardener
      July 15, 2019 at 7:38 am #

      Droopy leaves that are less compact and curled are usually because the plant does not have enough light or is watered to much. Growing them ‘harder’ will result in more twisted leaves.

  47. Bruce
    August 9, 2019 at 1:53 pm #

    Hello everyone.
    How fascinating that we have all come together for the love of this particular plant.
    We came across our Albuca at the checkout of Frosts garden centre Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire in spring 2019. Since then it has grown vigorously and since repotting is now producing four flower spikes.
    It is standing out in the garden in full sun but I will keep overwinter in a frost free greenhouse and restrict watering just to be on the safe side.
    When I have devided the plant next year and have some to take a chance with I will try over wintering outside as I have a well drained soil that over winters pineapple lillies (Eucomis bicolor) successfully.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 14, 2019 at 1:35 pm #

      Yes, people really seem to love this plant. I put some in an antique (looking) urn with a narrow mouth for the Bloom display last June. It came back with us and it has been in the garden at the garden centre ever since. I was not sure if it would survive outside but as I gave it away I had no say! It is at the base of a south-facing wall and it has done amazingly well – pulled through the winter no problem and flowered really well. The pot is about 45cm high and the mouth only 10cm across so little water gets in so it has perfect drainage.

    • Chris Buckingham
      August 14, 2019 at 1:40 pm #

      We discovered our Albucca in Prayssac market in Southern France, it was in flower at the time so when it set seed we sowed the seed indoors, we now have 12 more heathy plants, we leave them outdoors in summer (45 deg) and keep them inside for winter.

      • thebikinggardener
        August 14, 2019 at 1:42 pm #

        That is interesting that it set seed. I have not tried to get seeds but I have never had a pod on my plants.

        • Chris Buckingham
          August 15, 2019 at 5:32 pm #

          I tink these plants are raised in large comecial greenhouses in Holland, it is just possible that the flowers were pollinated there, the seeds were quite easy to germinate, I did not sow all of them but got a good percentage of germination, mine did not flower until quite late this year, around June I think.

        • Chris
          May 24, 2020 at 8:25 pm #

          This year (2020) I have again raised dozens of seedlings of Albuca spiralis, I found some seeds that I collected from my 10 pants last year, and that had been in an envelope on our veranda all winter, I planted then 3 weeks ago, and now have 24 plants germinated and growing away.

          • thebikinggardener
            May 28, 2020 at 3:57 pm #

            Well done – that is great. I have still never had a seed pod on my plants. Well done for getting so many to grow. I see that you have the same typing quirk as me – I so often buy new pants for my garden! πŸ™‚

            • Anonymous
              May 28, 2020 at 6:11 pm #

              Ha Ha! I have just noticed that typo, the computer system is cranky at the moment, it misses spaces, mistypes words, and makes some interesting reading sometimes.
              On the unusual pants theme, I have just got into flower some Lychnis wilfordii, only recorded from one small area in southern Russia, so with luck I will get seeds from the 12 plants I have. Stay safe! (I will stick with my leather jeans).

              • thebikinggardener
                May 31, 2020 at 9:22 am #

                Had to look that one up – looks amazing with those extra lobes on the petals

              • thebikinggardener
                May 31, 2020 at 9:24 am #

                The trouble is spell check does not notice pants instead of plants! My other problem is form instead of from. I put it down to my brain working quicker than my fingers πŸ™‚

              • Anonymous
                May 31, 2020 at 10:03 am #

                I am sure your brain is certainly working faster that the computers brain, my students used to tell me that the computer is a fast as lightening, what they really meant was it appears faster than their brain, not a difficult task! Yes, the Lychnis wilfordii is a very interesting plant, the flowers, at 25 mm are a lot smaller than I expected, but look very nice, it is 36 degs every day here now, so they look a bit droopy!

  48. Chris Buckingham
    May 29, 2021 at 8:30 am #

    My Albuca spiralis have again flowered very well, the scent has filled the whole verandah, they do not appear to have such curly “leaves” this year, but that could be due to the weather conditions, they do appear to be very easy to grow from the seed they produce, I just plant them on in pots until the bulb develops, then into individual pots. Stay safe!

    • thebikinggardener
      May 29, 2021 at 8:58 am #

      Thank you – you too. It is good that your plants are doing so well and even increasing!


  1. A thousand and one notes | The Biking Gardener - December 13, 2016

    […] The perils of being interesting: Albuca spiralis […]

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