albuca spiralis

Albuca spiralis (Corkscrew Albuca): Facts, How to Grow and Care

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Albuca spiralis is a species under the plant family Asparagaceae. It belongs to the extensive genus Albuca along with a hundred other species. Commonly called corkscrew albuca, the plant got its name from its quirky spiral leaves. The plant is native to South Africa where it grows in sandy, stony slopes (1).

Facts about Corkscrew Albuca

Corkscrew albucas are bulbous perennial succulents. Clumps of 5 to 10 leaves grow from a single bulb that pokes out of the ground. The leaves are long, narrow, and green with an unusual spiral tip. Along the leaves are small glandular hairs that give the plant a velvety appearance. The plant has varying sizes, but it can grow up to 8 inches tall. (2,3)

An unusual plant, corkscrew albucas grow in winter and then becomes dormant during summer. When it enters dormancy, some of the leaves can turn yellow and fall off (4). 

It could also lose all of its leaves and become ratty, but do not panic if it does. As long as the bulb is intact and firm, and the plant is healthy, it will be fine and revert back to its weirdly beautiful state come autumn (5).

Albuca Spiralis Flower

frizzle sizzle flower
Albuca spiralis plant photo by 阿橋 HQ | Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

During late winter, they become adorned with small delicate blooms. The flowers are a pale green color with yellow margins and grow from a long stalk at the center of the spiral leaves. They exude a sweet floral fragrance that smells like vanilla and butter (6). The flowers will last until mid-spring, and then the plant enters dormancy.

Albuca spiralis has one famous cultivar called ‘Frizzle Sizzle’. This cultivar is hardier and easier to grow.


How to Care for Corkscrew Albuca

How much light does corkscrew albucas need?

Corkscrew albucas need lots of sunlight. They can be grown in partial shade to full sunlight, but full sunlight is best to achieve curlier leaves. These plants are best grown indoors, placed in a south-facing window (7).

How often should you water corkscrew albucas?

Corkscrew albucas will need moderate watering during winter when the plant is growing prolifically. During this season, they need the soil to be moist but not soggy. Be careful not to overwater since the bulbs are very prone to rot.

As with other succulents, make sure to let the soil dry before the next watering. When the plant enters dormancy in summer, watering should be held off and the soil should be kept dry (7).

What is the optimum temperature and humidity for corkscrew albucas?

Although they prefer colder temperatures, corkscrew albucas are not very frost hardy. The optimum temperature for best growth is 60 to 70oF but it might need to drop to colder temperatures in order to produce viable seeds. High temperatures can scorch the spiral leaves.

These plants also prefer low to moderate humidity. High humidity can cause the leaves to lose their turgidity and become soft (5,7).

What is the best potting/growing media for corkscrew albucas?

Just like in their natural habitat, corkscrew albucas require sandy, well-drained soil. It must also be rich in nutrients for the best growth. Cactus and succulent potting mix will be perfect enough for growing these plants, but you can make your own mix with 3:3:1 potting soil, sand, and perlite (7).

Fertilizer Needs

Feed corkscrew albucas with a balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing season (winter) and stop when it enters dormancy (summer).

Propagation

Corkscrew albucas can be propagated either through seeds or through the bulbs. Seeds are best to be grown in autumn through winter. Plant the seeds in moist peat and perlite mix and cover with a plastic bag to retain moisture.

Place them in indirect sunlight and repot in its regular mix when it has grown. For bulbs, simply divide an offset from the parent plant and repot in its regular potting mix (5).

Up Next: How to grow succulents from seeds

References

Reference List:

(1) African Plant Database. “Albuca spiralis“. Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques & South African National Biodiversity Institute. 2012. (online) http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/details.php?langue=an&id=14769.

(2) le Roux A. “Wild Flowers of Namaqualand: A Botanical Society Guide“. Penguin Random House South Africa, 2015.

(3) World Checklist of Selected Plant Families “Albuca spiralis L.f., Suppl. Pl.: 196 (1782)“.  Kew.org. (online) https://wcsp.science.kew.org/namedetail.do?name_id=294636.

(4) Afra A. “The Succulent Manual: A guide to care and repair for all climates”. Andrea Afra. 2018.

(5) “Albuca spiralis” LLIFLE – Encyclopedia of living forms. 2005. (online) http://www.llifle.com/Encyclopedia/BULBS/Family/Hyacinthaceae/29272/Albuca_spiralis.

(6) Quasem J.R.S. “The Coloured Atlas of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of Jordan and their Uses (Volume Two)”. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2020. PP 39-40.

(7) “Albuca spiralis” Royal Horticultural Society.  2020. (online) https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/73923/Albuca-spiralis/Details.

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*Image by depositphotos.com/ChWeiss

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