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Climbing Onion, Sea Onion
Scientific Name: Bowiea volubilis Harv. et Hook. f.
Synonym: Schizobasopsis volubilis
Family: Hyacinthaceae
Climbing Onion, Sea Onion (Bowiea  volubilis)
Bowiea volubilis at the Huntington Gardens in early July
Recommended Temperature Zone:
USDA: 11-12

Frost Tolerance: Keep above 50 F (10C)

Heat Tolerance: Protect from heat in summer in Phoenix

Sun Exposure: Light shade to full sun, keep bulb shaded

Origin: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania

Growth Habits: Perennial bulb, The bulb can reach 10 inches (25 cm), the stem can reach 8 feet (2.5 m)

Watering Needs: Stop gradually watering when the stalk dries out after blooming, in summer. Start watering when the stalk starts growing again in the fall.

Propagation: Seeds, detach offsets when repotting


The Bowiea volubilis is an interesting plant (although not quite beautiful). The bulb is pale green and grows half buried in the soil. Each year it develops new branched stems that somewhat make it look like an elongated asparagus. There are no leaves except for a small quantity of scales that drop rapidly. Soon, a lot of greenish flowers are produced followed by seeds.
Most authors write that the bulb is poisonous, H. Jacobsen claims it can be eaten. I don't think that I will try...

Climbing Onion, Sea Onion (Bowiea  volubilis)

Climbing Onion, Sea Onion (Bowiea  volubilis)

Cultural Practices:
The bulb grows slightly slower if kept outside the soil, but it has much lesser chances to rot. In any case it needs to be protected from the sun. Use a mixture for cactus for the soil, or a mix rough sand and normal potting soil. Let the soil become rather dry before watering again.

Blooming Habits:
The greenish 0.4 inches flowers (1 cm) come in spring on a very long stalk.

Fruiting Habits:

Check for Field Collection numbers at Ralph Martin's Site


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Desert-Tropicals is dedicated to provide gardening advice, gardening ideas, and information about flower of all kind for landscape and collections. We try to check carefully the identification of the plants on the illustrations as well as the other information from the page, but occasionally errors do occur. if you notice anything that needs to be changed please contact us. Thanks.

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