Sandersonia care infographicSandersonia plants of the Colchicaceae family produce exquisite flowers shaped like golden lanterns which open from the bottom upwards. Whimsical and eye-catching, the delicate Sandersonia flowers create a magical mood for any garden.

Sandersonia Aurantiaca plants are known for their gorgeous seasonal blooming and make beautiful cut flowers that last for weeks. The profusion of fantastical golden flowers makes growing Sandersonia quite rewarding for many gardeners.

What Is a Sandersonia?

The Sandersonia is a beautifully delicate tuberous plant with slender stalks and pendulous flowers that resemble lighted golden lanterns. The magical quality of these enchanting blooms is enough to convince growers to keep these half-hardy perennials in their gardens.

Sandersonia Care

Caring for Sandersonia plants is quite easy, as long as they are placed in ideal growing conditions. The slender stalks may need protection from strong winds, so supporting the plants with stakes will definitely help them stay erect. Although they are half-hardy perennials, many gardeners grow Christmas Bells as annuals.


The Sandersonia prefers systemic, regularly scheduled watering. It prefers moist but not overly wet soil, as the condition can lead to the tubers rotting from excess moisture. The soil must be constantly moist and not allowed to dry out.

Properly Watering Sandersonia Plant


Since the Christmas Bells plant’s rhizomatic tuber is mostly made up of water, keeping them hydrated is important. Too much and the tubers can get soggy, and too little can result in dried-up tubers.

Gardeners can benefit from regular deep watering, but not frequent.

Watering the Chinese Lantern Lily plants early in the day or later in the afternoon can lessen the chances of stressing the plant. Mulching and drip irrigation methods are some of the best techniques for retaining the soil’s ideal moisture content.


The Sandersonia Aurantiaca prefers and enjoys full sun exposure. However, it does not tolerate extreme heat quite well. Under excessive sweltering heat, it is best to keep them frequently watered.

Light Requirements of Sandersonia


Otherwise, the full sun exposure will keep the Christmas Bells in their optimal growth conditions.


The Sandersonia Aurantiaca thrives in loamy soil with good drainage. Ideally, the soil should be a mixture of regular soil, sand, and compost or dried manure. The coarse texture of this ideal mixture ensures that the plant enjoys adequate moisture levels without getting waterlogged.

Loamy Soil for Sandersonia Aurantiaca


It is also recommended to avoid planting the Christmas Bells plants in materials with high water retention, such as soils high in clay. Excess water can lead to stem and tuber rot, while constant dehydration can eventually kill the plant.


Since the Sandersonia Aurantiaca is a half-hardy perennial, they are quite popular with gardeners in North America in the USDA zones 8 to 10. In cooler climates and regions, the plant is often treated as an annual.

The Christmas Bells plant prefers not to get frostbite, so the ground temperature must not be below 55 F when planting them outside. For regions where ground temperatures can go below 55 F, it is recommended to either dig the plants up and overwinter them under ideal conditions or treat them as annuals.


Established Sandersonia Aurantiaca can benefit greatly from proper fertilization. Fertilizers high in nitrogen will increase foliage growth. However, excessive doses of fertilizers high in nitrogen can lessen the development of the flowers.

Proper Fertilizer for Sandersonia Aurantiaca


Fertilizers high in phosphorus will enhance flower development and bloom, although excessive amounts may provide detrimental effects such as burns. The correct use of regular and balanced fertilizers is ideal for promoting the overall health and growth of the Christmas Bells.

The Chinese Lantern Lily does not need to be fertilized when the cooler months are near. Reducing or removing fertilizer feedings will naturally allow the plant to go into its rest period.

– Rest Period

In colder temperatures, many gardeners prefer to treat Christmas Bells plants as annuals. However, some gardeners prefer to dig them up, store them in ideal overwintering conditions, and replant them in the spring.

For gardeners living in North American USDA zones 9 to 10, the Chinese Lantern Lilies are often treated as perennials. The plants are allowed to die back naturally at the end of the growing and flowering seasons, where they tend to survive most winters.

The Sandersonia Aurantiaca is a delicate plant, and it can bruise easily if it is carelessly handled. Their rhizomatic tubers are mostly made up of water and may become affected when the ground temperatures are far beyond their tolerable ranges.


Sandersonia Aurantiaca plants that germinate from seeds can take anywhere from three to four years before they can begin to flower. However, the Sandersonia Aurantiaca is known for its erratic ways of germination. This method could be ideal for gardeners who enjoy the thrill of and possess the patience for growing plants from seeds.

For gardeners who prefer quicker methods, propagation by division is their ideal method. The Christmas Bells’ rhizomatic tubers are expertly divided into ideal portions to increase yield and viability.

Many gardeners also rely on growing the Chinese Lantern Lilies indoors prior to transplanting them outdoors. This method ensures healthy mature plants in the summer without any risk of frostbite or premature ending.

Ideally, planting three bulbs per square foot is optimal for bushier foliage and better stalk support. In windy conditions, it is still best to stake the plants for support.

Facts About the Sandersonia

– Name Origins

The Sandersonia was discovered in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1851 by John Sanderson, a Scottish journalist and amateur botanist. In 1853, the plant was described in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine by Sir William Hooker, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Name Origins of Sandersonia


Sandersonia Aurantiaca is the official description of the plant, and the epithet is due to the rich tones of the flower, which range from yellow to scarlet.

The plant’s most common name is Christmas Bells due to the specific holiday season in which it tends to bloom. Other popular common names include Golden Lily of the Valley and Chinese Lantern Lily.

– Size

The Sandersonia Aurantiaca can grow up to 24 to 30 inches in height. The growth for young plants can be slow for the first few years, although once established, the plants grow rapidly with each growing season. The plant has a climbing growth habit.

The Sandersonia is a wispy, erect summer rhizomatic root tuber. The plant genus contains only one species, which is the Sandersonia Aurantiaca. Their tubers produce new rootstock as well as slender leaf stems during the springtime.

– Leaves

The leaves of the Sandersonia Aurantiaca are lanceolate, which means they are thin and shaped like lances. The leaves are alternately arranged along the equally thin stems.

Leaves of Sandersonia Aurantiaca


Seemingly delicate and wispy, the stalks of the mature Christmas Bells are strong enough to support the whole plant once it begins to bloom in profusion.

– Roots

The Sandersonia Aurantiaca has rhizomatic root tubers that are quite deep-seated. The corm consists typically of two swollen jointed lobes, which produce new rootstock and stalks during springtime. The new growths are produced from a bud located at the tip of the old swollen lobes.

– Flowers

The Sandersonia Aurantiaca starts its flowering season in the late spring to early summer in temperate regions. The delightfully delicate golden flowers are shaped like lanterns and are usually found in hues that range from pale orange to deep tangerine to bright scarlet. The flowers are borne on long strands of stalks produced in the lead axis.

Flowers of Sandersonia Plant


Eventually, the Christmas Bells flowers produce a fruit capsule that contains several small hard brown seeds. When fully mature, the seeds fall to the ground and begin growing as rhizomatic tubers.

The beautiful dangling blooms of the Chinese Lantern Lily plants make beautiful cut flowers. The stalks and flowers can last for up to four weeks, delighting onlookers with their enchanting blooms that magically look as if they were lit from within.

– Habitat

The Sandersonia Aurantiaca is native to Southern Africa, where their distribution typically ranges in the damp hill slopes of KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, the Eastern Cape, and the Southern Mpumalanga. Severe habitat loss due to quick agricultural expansion has made the plant less ubiquitous in the wild.

Habitat of Aurantiaca Plant


Due to the indiscriminate picking of these beautiful plants, the Christmas Bells plant is seen less frequently in its native habitats. Nowadays, the Sandersonia Aurantiaca is seen more often in nature reserves, as well as in cultivation.


How do you prune the Sandersonia plant?

Prune Sandersonia by removing dead or damaged stems in late winter or early spring to encourage healthy growth. Trim back any overly long or tangled branches.

Is Sandersonia a vine?

No, Sandersonia is not a vine. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows from bulbs and produces tall stems with bell-shaped flowers.

Can I deadhead Sandersonia?

Yes, you can deadhead Sandersonia by removing faded or spent flowers. This promotes continuous blooming and helps redirect energy toward new growth.


The Sandersonia Aurantiaca is a beautifully delicate tuberous plant with slender stalks and pendulous flowers that resemble lighted golden lanterns.

The magical quality of these enchanting blooms is enough to convince growers to keep this half-hardy perennial longer in the gardens.

Let’s review what we’ve learned so far about the Chinese Lantern Lily:

  • The Sandersonia Aurantiaca is an easy-growing, half-hardy tuberous perennial that produces uniquely shaped flowers in colors from pale golden yellow to streaks of scarlet.
  • The Christmas Bells plant prefers rich loamy soil and plenty of sunlight, as well as deep and regular watering and fertilizing schedules.
  • The Chinese Lantern Lily normally cuts back on its growth during the cooler parts of the year where it can regrow. In even cooler regions, it is grown as an annual.

The Sandersonia is a low-maintenance plant that is extremely easy to care for. Gracing the gardens with its delicate foliage and pendant flowers that look like magical lanterns, this gorgeous tuberous plant brings enchantment when in bloom!

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