About Gloriosa Superba


Gloriosa superba is the national flower of Zimbabwe. This unusual tropical lily goes by the names of Gloriosa lily, flame lily, glory lily, climbing lily and creeping lily. Gloriosa superba grows best in light airy soil rich in organic material that drains well. The lily tuber is planted 2 inches deep on its side. Gloriosa superba likes to be fed monthly with a light application of slow-release fertilizer while growing. This lily comes in different varieties like Rothschildiana with scarlet blossoms, Citrina with yellow blooms and Simplex with orange and yellow flowers.


Gloriosa superba grows wild in tropical Africa which includes Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. They are also native in the western Indian Ocean islands like Madagascar. This exotic lily is wild in the temperate area of Asia in the Chinese region. They are also native to tropical Asia including India, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.


Gloriosa superba is a slender vine with alternating leaves. The roots are a thick tuber. The leaves are strap-like and have tendrils on its tips that help it climb up supports. This vine can stretch up to 8 to 12 feet. The blossoms form on long stalks with six petals that are yellow or red with wavy edges.


This lily makes an unusual houseplant that can be grown in a container with a trellis. It is also used to add brilliant color in a landscape. Cut flowers of the Gloriosa superba can last up to eight days, making it an excellent choice for floral bouquets. It is used as an ornamental plant in indoor gardens.


Gloriosa superba needs a sunny location for good growth, but it will tolerate partial shade. This lily does not do well in saline soils. It has weak stems, so it needs to be supported on fences or trellises. The Gloriosa lily can be propagated through seeds, but these take up to four months to sprout. They form tubers in a year and can be planted outside in mild winter areas after three growing seasons. Gloriosa superba needs winter protection from temperatures of 20 degrees F and below.


Gloriosa superba can suffer from pest attacks. Aphid infestations can be remedied with a soapy water spray. Large chewing insects need to be removed and destroyed by hand. Always identify attacking insects before applying any insecticide.


Every part of the Gloriosa superba contains the chemical colchicine. It is highly toxic when eaten. Accidental ingestion of this lily occurs when people mistake the root for a yam or sweet potato. Colchicine poisoning symptoms develop two to six hours after ingestion. The symptoms include excess thirst, high fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, difficult breathing, convulsions and numbness of the lips, tongue and throat.

Keywords: Gloriosa superba, glory lily, colchicine poisoning

About this Author

Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.