Horticulture Magazine

Dierama Plant Care & Growing Tips

white Dierama Latifolium flowers

Dierama Overview

Official Plant NameDierama
Common Name(s)Angel’s Fishing Rod, Wedding Bells, Fairy Bells
Plant TypePerennial
Native AreaSouth Africa
Hardiness RatingH4
ToxicityNone
FoliageEvergreen
FlowersOften purple, pink or red
When To SowMay, June
Flowering MonthsJune, July, August
When To PruneMarch
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
1 – 1.5M

Spread
0.1 – 0.5M

Bloom Time
June – August

Soil

Preferred
Chalk, loam, sand

Moisture
Well-drained

pH
Any

One-of-a-kind Dierama Plant hails from South Africa – but you may well argue that it comes from a Fairyland.

From the midst of ribbon-like evergreen leaves rise wiry stalks that arc and sway. From these arcing stalks droop and dangle a row of delightful floral bells.

The slightest waft of air sets these flowers nodding in a charming show of pretty colours and dainty movement.

Unusual, charming, and relatively little-known – that just about describes the Dieramas of Southern and East Africa.

Dierama pulcherrimum and its various hybrids and cultivars are called ‘Fairy Fishing Rods’ or ‘Angel’s Fishing Rods’, while the other species are called ‘Wandflowers’.

The ‘Fishing Rod’ Dierama plants’ wiry stalks are usually 90 to 150 centimetres long and tend to arc at a 30° to 60° angle and really do somewhat resemble fishing rods from which sprays of flowers dangle, droop, and delightfully nod away. 

Many of the ‘Wandflowers’ have a similar habit and appearance while others have erect stalks and semi-erect flowers.

Fishing Rod or Wandflower, this genus’s flowers are surely among the most perfect of floral bells and display elegantly tapered tepals.

Depending on the variety, these bell-like flowers can be from 3 to 6 centimetres in length.

Colours include all shades of pink-purple from faint pink through mauve to purple, with white, yellow, and red flowers occurring on (only) a few varieties.

Angels fishing rod flowers
Bell-Like Flowers Drooping from Arcing Stems Resembling Fishing Rods!

Dieramas bloom very obligingly exactly through summer – from June to August.

The flower stalks rise from the middle of a basal clump of elongated ribbon-like linear leaves rather like wild grasses. In most species this foliage is of a bluish-green hue.

Both stalks and leaves emerge from fibrous corms which put out roots from the basal surface. Similar to bulbs and rhizomes, these corms function as stores of energy.

Dierama is a genus of 44 species and belongs to Family Iridaceae with the Irises and Gladioli. Its varieties are evergreen perennials.

During prolonged freezes it may drop its leaves and ‘go deciduous’ but as long as temperatures do not plunge into seriously negative territory, the dormant corm will awaken in spring and push up new foliage.

Like Iris, it has narrow, ribbon-like leaves, and like Gladioli, its rootstock is cormous. But unlike both, indeed, unlike just about any other plant is its habit – an ‘Arcing and Nodding Habit’! 

Dieramas look nothing so much as plants out of a fantasyland fairy garden and they will be a delight to both young and old.

closeup of pink dierama pulcherrimum flowers
The Perfect Floral Bells of ‘Fairy Fishing Rods’

Background and Origins

Dierama plants are native to a swath of land in eastern and central Africa from Ethiopia through Zambia to South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal in south-eastern South Africa is the centre of diversity of this genus.

The first European botanist to discover a Dierama plant was Carl Thunberg from Sweden who made his find in South Africa in the 1770s.

Specimens and seeds of several Dierama species were sent and then brought back to Great Britain in the 1840s by an English botanist and missionary, James Backhouse (whose father and son also had the same name and were hobbyist botanists).

Although these plants were first sent to the British Isles, they became established and popular as introduced species in Australia many decades back. They have relatively recently gained popularity in the United Kingdom and Europe. 

These plants’ flowers’ bell or funnel shape lies behind the genus’s name, for ‘Dierama’ is ancient Greek for funnel. 

Angels fishing rod flowers branching out from a garden border
The Unusual and Appealing Habit of the Dierama Plant

Common Varieties

For a plant of such sweetly charming habit as Dierama, it is but natural to run down a Sweet Sixteen set of varieties.

D. pendulum is from the Eastern Cape. Overhanging dense clumps of foliage, flower stalks are a full metre long and the blooms’ hues vary from pale pink to bright, brilliant pink.

D. pulcherrimum or Angel’s Fishing Rod is found in a wide swath of land in South Africa. It is a comparatively dense plant with good spread, bearing many flower stalks of just over one metre. Flowers are a bright pink-purple.

D. jucundum or Delightful Wandflower is from the Cape of South Africa. It tops out at about one metre and its stalks are even more wiry than the norm. It produces comparatively smaller flowers but they are more flared open than most and are of a brilliant, deep pink-magenta colour.

D. igneum or Fiery Wandflower is native to a few countries in South-Eastern Africa. At 30 to 70 centimetres it is one of the shorter and smaller species but produces foliage and flower stalks quite densely. Flowers are a bright rosy pink. 

flowering Dierama pulcherrimum Igneum
Dierama Igneum Flowers in Bloom with Other Wildflowers in Summer Colour

D. robustum or Robust Wandflower is from South Africa and Lesotho. Its name refers to its stalks’ great height as they are typically between one and 1.5 metres. Making a fine contrast with anything ‘robust’ are the bells which are wholly pendent and in the most demure shade of pastel pink.

D. pauciflorum or Few-Flowered Wandflower is native to a large swath of land in Southern and East Africa. The plant itself is not large and is of a dwarf type, rising to only 30 to 40 centimetres; the flower stalks merely peeking past the foliage. Drooping bells are of a bright candy pink colour. 

D. reynoldsii hails from the highlands of KwaZulu Natal in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is a mid-height species with the stalks reaching about 70 centimetres. The flowers, perfectly bell shaped, are uncommon, being of a rich wine-red tone.

D. erectum also hails from KwaZulu Natal but makes its habitats in lowlands near rivers and streams. Though its flowers are the ‘normal’ pink-purple colour, it too is an uncommon species. First, with flower stalks rising to over one metre and up to 1.5 metres, it is a giant. Next, it is virtually unique among Dierama for bearing erect spikes of upward- or outward-facing flowers.

Dierama plants growing wild in an English Country Garden
Dierama Plants Virtually Growing Wild in an English Country Garden

D. Dracomontanum or Drakensberg Wandflower grows in South Africa and Lesotho and most particularly in the Drakensberg Mountains. It is a montane species. Flower stalks do not arc as much as most other species, especially as they grow to only about 60 centimetres. The blooms are smaller than most and are of a bright salmon pink to coral pink hue.

D. mossii or Moss’s Wandflower grows in most of South Africa. It is a dwarf species as its flower stalks are only 40 to 50 centimetres. Though they are comparatively short, they arc gracefully. Flowers are narrow bells and of a vibrant purplish-pink tone.

D. trichorhizum or Hairy-Rooted Wandflower hails from the highlands of South Africa and Lesotho. It too is a dwarf with flower stalks of only 30 to 40 centimetres, which do not arc much. Its flowers too are narrow and bell like, and are mauve-pink.

D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’ is similar to the species with the difference that the flowers’ tones are from a deep fuschia to a wine-purple tone, making it an eye-catching variety.

Red coloured flowers of D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’
The Deep Wine Red Hue of D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’

D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackberry Bells’ is similar to the species with the difference that the flowers’ tones are from a pink-purple to rich, deep purple, making this an eye-catching variety as well.

D. pulcherrimum var. album or White Angel’s Fishing Rod or D. ’Snowbells’ is similar to the species with the difference that the flowers are pure white. Because of the uncommon colour it is one of the most desirable Dierama varieties.

D. ‘Guinevere’ produces stalks of a little over one metre in height over foliage of about one metre. The flowers are more flared open than most and are pink-tinged or pink-flushed white.

Dierama luteoalbidum is found only in KwaZulu Natal in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and not in abundance. In fact, it is an endangered species. It is rare because of its endangered status and also because of the colour of its flowers which is a pale lemon-yellow progressing to yellowish-white.

As Dierama plants are becoming more and more appreciated in the United Kingdom, nurseries specialising in bulbs and rhizomes are developing their own hybrids and cultivars including bicoloured ones.

Habitat and Growing Conditions

What Dierama species have in common is their love for sunny, open locations.

Most species in their native habitat are found in savannahs and other grasslands, in rather indifferent soil, and even poor soil. For example, both D. pulcherrimum and D. pendulum often grow in gravelly, stony ground.

Although in cultivation Angel’s Fishing Rods and Wandflowers are typically set by bodies of water, in the wild many species are highland plants. For instance, both D. robustum and D. dracomontanum grow at altitude, even on mountainsides, and frequently almost cover hillsides.

Even in nature Dieramas do not tolerate waterlogged or damp soil and prefer well-draining ground. Only a few species grow in heavy soils.

These plants are hardy to Zone H4, making them just hardy enough in most (though not all) regions of the United Kingdom.

Angel's Fishing Rod flowering in summer next to a pond
Rocks, Stream, and Angel’s Fishing Rods – Perfect!

Where to Plant Dierama

Dierama are wildflowers as such. Their arcing wiry stalks and dangling, nodding floral bells create a whimsical appeal that is ideal for informal gardens and country gardens.

Within that style, they look especially lovely beside ponds and brooks. If you go for this latter design option, be sure that the corms are above the water table – they must not be kept in damp soil otherwise they can rot. 

They are excellent choices for planting in containers to be placed on balconies, patio parapets, or alongside the exterior wall of your dwelling.

The vigour of Dierama plants in containers should constantly be monitored; some varieties will do well enough in containers while others will not.

Finally, they are ‘especially excellent,’ so to speak, for planting along walkways for obvious reasons!

Dierama varieties are ideal for planting in indifferent soil, but which should be well-drained, in bare and unused patches of your yard. 

dierama flowers arcing over a walkway
Fairy Fishing Rods Arcing Over a Walkway in a Country Garden

Feeding, Care and Growing Tips

Dierama plants need to be protected from three things: hard frost, heavyish soil, and shade. Fair warning given, D. pulcherrimum and its cultivars are rather more resistant to frost than some other varieties.

A chalky or sandy soil enriched with organic compost or humus with a subsoil layer of gravel or perlite would be perfect for Dierama. Most Dierama will grow quite happily in pebbly or gravelly soil.

Soil pH should ideally be in the Slightly Acidic to Neutral range, 6.1 to 7.3, though somewhat more acidic or alkaline soil will do. Soil must drain very well. The site should enjoy full sun.

Growing From Seed

Growing Dierama from seeds is somewhat difficult and is not recommended for novice or hobbyist gardeners.

The seeds have to be sown in ground kept within a particular temperature range in order to germinate, and this range varies depending on the species.

The seedlings must be kept consistently moist but neither overwatered nor allowed to dry out. They also take weeks to germinate.

Probably the biggest downside to sowing seeds is that it takes three to six years for corms to form, develop, and grow strong enough to produce flowers.

Planting Out

In practice, Dierama varieties are bought as potted plants and transplanted. You may also be able to buy corms from a nursery or get them from a friend.

tender pink Dierama pulcherrimum
Some Dierama Varieties Produce Pastel Lavender Hued Blooms

Corms should be planted from 7 to 12 centimetres deep, in a container or in open ground. Be sure that the rooting side is downward.

If potted plants are transplanted into open ground, do so to the same soil level that they are in the pot to preclude any complications.

Planting or transplanting Dierama should be done in spring, and once done let it settle in its new home and do not shift it.

Plants kept or grown in containers may be brought indoors during the winter and kept in a sunny spot.

Dierama should be watered regularly in the summer. 

In winter they, that is the plants’ corms, should be protected more than ever from damp.

These plants may be fertilized with a very limited quantity of balanced 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer or a small quantity of bonemeal or fishmeal in spring mixed into the soil away from the corms.

Dierama corms will multiply vertically – they will stack one atop the other in a ‘chain.’ Though they can be divided every year it is not a good idea to do so. Aim to divide Dierama corms about every four years. This should be done in winter or early spring.

D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackberry Bells’
D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackberry Bells’ Flowers Vary to Rich Deep Purple

Pruning Dierama

Dierama do not need to be pruned.

You may deadhead spent flowers but their seed sacs are pretty in their own right.

You may remove any tatty or withered and browned foliage provided a sufficient number of green leaves remain on the plant.

Common Diseases and Problems

Dierama are not known to suffer from any pests or diseases in particular.

On the basis of prevention being better than cure, what is very important is to guard against ‘root rot’ by ensuring that the corm is not in waterlogged ground or in continuously damp soil.

Where to Buy Dierama

Dierama varieties are enjoying a steady rise in popularity. As a result, you can get potted plants in many nurseries. You may well find a few varieties at a garden centre near you.

It is probably best to buy Dierama potted plants from online vendors specialising in them and other cormous and rhizomatous plants.

fairy bell flowers in unusual pink and white colours
Dierama Flowers with Relatively Unusual Pink and White Flushes

Keep in mind that you can grow a Dierama plant easily enough from a corm that you might get from a friend.

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