Sometimes known as corn lilies (because their flower buds look like heads of wheat, which is called corn in the UK), Ixia maculata (ht 45-60cm) are corms that are native to South Africa and belong to the Iridaceae, the large plant family that includes irises. Easily grown in our Sydney climate, corn lilies have dark-eyed, star-shaped blooms on long, elegant stems in spring. The most commonly seen form is yellow, although red, orange or cerise cultivars can be obtained, and some types are striped, like old-fashioned boiled lollies. There is a beautiful jade green species (Ixia viridiflora, ht 60cm) but I have never had much success with it.
Like all of the spring-flowering South African corms, they bring a note of lively detail into our gardens at this time, when grown in clumps or pockets between shrubs, amongst perennials or at the edges of paths.
In general, they are easy to grow in a sunny spot with any reasonably drained soil. They need adequate watering during their winter growing season, but want drier conditions during summer when they are dormant. They benefit from regular applications of Aquasol before, during and after flowering. Leaves should be allowed to die down naturally. They naturalise to form clumps: when these become very congested they can be dug up once the leaves have died down then replanted, or stored in a dry spot such as a garage until autumn - which is recommended if they are likely to be watered too much in summer, as they may be liable to fade away if left in the ground.