Sometimes known as baboon flowers, Babiana stricta (ht 30 cm) 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, Babiana have funnel-shaped flowers in distinctive colours of violet, magenta, mauve and purple-blue - and even pure white - with attractively pleated leaves. 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. I have some violet-coloured Babiana growing nearby a patch of golden oregano (Origanum vulgare 'Aureum'), creating a vivid combination.
In general, they are easy to grow in a sunny spot with any reasonably drained soil. Some authorities recommend that they be planted up to 20cm deep, but I have never bothered about that. 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. 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. Leaves should be allowed to die down naturally.