Ordering SAfrican Bulbs online from abroad

safariofthemind(z7b NC)February 16, 2003

I am cross posting this question here at the suggestions of "rainy_in_OR". I am interested in so called minor or small bulbs and species such as Ixia cultivars, boophane and other succulents and tiny Irid and Lilium-like but especially Amarillids. Thanks for your help. I am also postinig in the intro thread about myself. Cheers, RJ


Any of you folks try getting bulbs from the S African nurseries that advertise on the web (or the British ones that deal in SA bulbs)? Are you getting CITES and phytosanitary paperwork easily? What are the fees for importation/shipping been for you all? I'm in NC so I don't have a port of entry nearby (closest is Atlanta).

In the past I got some leather goods from SA and it was a pain clearing customs plus I had to pay taxes. I'm hoping that is not the case for seeds and/or bulbs.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Nurseries I'm considering:

Greg Pettit http://www.comm.lia.net/bulbs/default.asp

Cape Flora http://users.iafrica.com/c/ca/capeflor/

Cape Seed and Bulb http://www.clivia.co.za/

Paul Christian http://rareplants.co.uk/index2.htm

Any others?



Here is a link that might be useful: My garden

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resmith(SW BC)

It is much easier and cheaper to buy seed than bulbs. That also eliminates any problems switching growth from the southern to the northern hemisphere.
Try http://www.silverhillseeds.co.za/
They pool their orders to the USA so there are only minor charges for phyto certificates.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2003 at 6:25PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)


Growing things from seed is a new experience for me. Last year was my first foray into perennials and annuals seed growing after years of growing nursery plants. It was a lot of fun and very succesful.

However, I've heard that most SA bulbs and succulents take many years to develop from seed. Sometimes even germination takes over a year. A fellow GardenWeb poster in the Bulbs forum mentioned in the order of 4 to 7 years for many bulbs from seed to flower. That's a looong commitment to caring for pots not to mention where to keep them if all you have is a tiny cold frame. Still, I am curious, what has it been like for you to grow from seed? RJ

    Bookmark   February 17, 2003 at 12:29AM
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These are some of my suppliers. I have never had any problem ordering from them. The size and quantity of plants that I order from them will be a differnt case scenario than you would. Last year I ordered 250 Strelitzias plus several hundered bulbs from other suppliers. If you know what all you will have to do, it really is not a problem. The best suggestion I have is to get a cutoms broker to handle everything. It only costs me about $35.00 to have them take care of all of the paperwork. Any believe me! There is a lot of things to do. Pick up at the airport, take to customs, paperwork, declaration, taxes, inspection, delivery, paperwork, etc. I think there is more to it but since I don't have invoices in front of me, I really can't remember everything that they did. All I had to do was show up when it was all over and pick up my plants and write a check. Simple.

Also, as far as growing things from seed, well that is a 3-7 year endeavor. Most things are 3-4 years. Most of the amaryllids (Boophane, Ammocharis, Clivia, Amaryllis, etc.) are all sprouting in the package by the time that they get here. So, the hard part is taken care of by the postal system. I really don't have space constraints since I can grow everything outside year-round. But, as a suggestion, you can shelve the pots until they are up and going good. There are many metal or wood open slatted shelving units that can be packed with pots until the leaves are up to the bottom of the upper shelf. But, diseases can be a little more vigorous in such a situation. My suggestion would be to use a regular drench of Physan (it is readily available from suppliers such as Charlie's Greenhouse and others).
As far as the length of time to bloom, there are several ways to decrease that time. Fert, fert, fert. A friend here in So. Cal. got a Veltheimia to bloom in 18 months. She was giving a 1/2 strength fert with every watering from time of sprouting on. Her bulbs are bigger than most peoples after 10 years. My seedlings are still small and insignificant since I never fert. I have large mature bulbs so I am not really worried about how long the seedlings take. I also have so many seedlings of things and pots of things coming along that I really don't have time to worry about how long they actually take. I plant them and don't think about them again until they are flowering (I haven't gotten to flowering size yet on anything from seed though).

John Ingram

    Bookmark   February 17, 2003 at 12:53PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

Hi John,

I am relieved to hear that importation still works. When I was in RSA last year (I visited Northern Province, the Drakensberg and the area around Pretoria) the locals were complaining about all the changes to US importation regulations.

The luggage I got shipped back was handled by a broker which definitely made it quicker in Atlanta but it took almost 2 weeks to have the stuff clear customs/CITES and then have it trucked up here. Maybe things are just more efficient at your port of entry and that's something to consider when ordering -- maybe folks in LA are more used to clearing live plant material. A shipment of bulbs, bare root plants and seeds can't weigh all that much that transhipment to NC would be a problem. Did the nurseries provide all the paperwork for phyto/cites, etc in their price or was that extra?

I am hoping that if one orders a nice amount that shipping costs can be kept to no more than 35% of the total, all inclusive.

Years ago a lecturer in a horticulture presentation who grew bulbs from seed made the point that seeds are the ticket for a lot of rare things and that one shouldn't be too scared of the time it takes to bring them to fruition. One should buy adult plants for current enjoyment but it's a good idea to start some seeds too. After all, if one starts 2 pots every year within 10 years there'll be a lot of nice things around. It's just that for an emerging garden it's kind of discouraging to just look at pots of seedlings.

This year there are something like 50 clay pots wintering over in my unheated garage. Many more-common plants (like Ixia, crocosmia,etc) are poking out of their pots but look in reasonably good condition. Same with pots of eucomis, ornithogalum, etc, etc.

I have a 4 shelf metal rack with wheels that is really convenient in Spring -- I just place starter plants in small pots in trays and wheel them out during the day, back inside at night while it's still freezing at night. Plants are nice and developed by May. Probably 100 seedlings can be held this way. The thing is, what to do with all those seedling from Dec to Feb when light is minimal and things mostly go dormant. Would they be ok? (PS. the inside of the house is already taken with orchids and my wife would kill me if I bring anything else inside, har, har)


    Bookmark   February 17, 2003 at 2:30PM
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MarkG_UK(UK - Zone 8)

Hi, I too got seeds from Silverhills. I also get plants from the UK Alpine Garden Society seedex. Re taking a long time, I found that some of the Moreas were quick to germinate and fairly quick to flower (compared to other bulbs). The AGS (and maybe the NARGS)also do some bulbils which can be very quick wins. Good ones to start with are some of the Oxalis.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mark's Inspiring Plants

    Bookmark   February 17, 2003 at 4:21PM
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raining_in_or(Zone 8 OR)


I hope you've gotten some new info. I was searching the internet for some places to buy SA plants and bulbs and I came accross these sites. I hope they're not a repeat.




These below don't have websites, but you can call to request a catalog and see what they offer. I copied the info from another website.

P.O. Box 565
Pittsfield, VT. 05762-0565
Many species and unusual bulbs.Short descriptions.
Quality: unknown

P.O. Box 1306
Sebastopol, CA 95473
West coast native bulbs, South African bulbs, rarities. Really cool stuff. Free catalog/list but there won't be one in 1997. Get them fast after that, they're retiring in 2000.
Quality: unknown
Price: $$$
Service: unknown
Variety: Excellent

P. O. Box 4978
Arcata CA 95503
Phone unknown
Rare bulbs from western US, South Africa, South America, and more such as Calochortus, Stenomesson, Brunsvigia, many others. Catalog $2, $3 to overseas, they will export.
Quality: unknown
Price: unknown
Service: unknown
Variety: Good

WILLETTS RARE BULBS http://www.bulbmania.com/
Box 466
Moss Landing, CA 95039
Bulbs - crinums, clivias, haemanthus, strumaria, zantedeschia and more. Not the usual run of the mill stuff. No cultivation info tho, you need to know your rare bulbs. Catalog $1.00
Quality: unknown
Price: $$$
Service: unknown
Variety: Good

Good luck! I hope you find what you're looking for.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2003 at 6:24PM
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modjadje(Willamette Valley Zone 8)

Silverhill Seeds keeps a list of folks who are interested in amaryllids, then they email you when the seeds are ready (relatively short shelf life). My clivia "seeds" which actually look like itty-bitty bulbs arrived in a small box, packed in cotton-wool. The two plants are now 4 years old and each has 12 leaves, which make me think that they are now big enough to flower this year.
I have also grown Melianthus villosus and Cussonia paniculata from seed obtained from Silverhill; these are magnificent shrubs which grow fast.
By the way, you will be surprised at the number of S.African bulbs which pop up in mail-order bulb catalogs.
For Protea and Erica seed, I've purchased from both
Silverhill Seeds and Fijnbosch Farme. The latter specializes in fynbos plants. Delina

    Bookmark   February 17, 2003 at 7:55PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

Thank you all for the info. I feel much more confident about these sources now and will pursue them further, especially for seeds as you all suggest.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2003 at 1:26PM
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Garrickza(South Africa)

The largest supplier of bulbs in South Africa is Hadeco and they supply to almost anywhere abroad . Link is


    Bookmark   February 19, 2003 at 5:42PM
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    Bookmark   February 21, 2003 at 5:49AM
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kifkaf(z7 MD)

Last year, I ordered seeds from a company called "Cape Seeds" and I never received my order. When I questioned it, I was told that I didn't request the proper documentation on that order and they would ship again, to a dealer in Colorado and they, in turn would ship to me. Then I got a email stating that their company name was being changed to something like "Zululand Seeds" and I found that the old website was gone and a new one was under construction. Shortly thereafter, my emails to them started bouncing, and then I found that the website was taken down altogether. Apparently the company went out of business and I lost my 30 bucks. A friend in Durban told me this happens frequently, so I won't order from companies there again.

Hope you have better luck than I did!


    Bookmark   February 21, 2003 at 12:37PM
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Kathy, Silverhill seeds is a well established company, I would be surprised if you had any problems with them.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2003 at 8:45PM
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Waussie(Albany WA)

I am collecting links to gardening sites and I wondered if anyone would like to add any South African sites? You can also add a link to your Gardenweb trade list if you like. Please aim to put links in the right category and don't post stuff thats not about gardening.

Here is a link that might be useful: Here is the link to the links

    Bookmark   March 2, 2003 at 11:03AM
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I've ordered from or had contact with three of the four companies you have listed and had not problems recieving stock. You will have to obtain a phyto cert. but after you consider how much you are investing in getting plants here, it's well worth it. I've never had to have stuff go to a broker but always directly to me. The regulations in South Africa required that the buyer here have an import permit number to obtain the certificate though. I got one for a fee of like $35. It was worth it. The certificates cost about $15-$20. If the vendor doesn't want to be bothered, they aren't shy about telling you up front. LOL. It can be pain for small orders, but most of people I've dealt with have been very good about it. I am always amazed at nice the people I've dealt with can be. The National Botanical Gardens in South Africa ( I think that is their official name) have a great catalogue and reasonable prices and they were very informed about all of the export requirements. I'm hoping to be getting some seeds from them next year. FYI there has been some very heated discussion on other forums regarding bringing seeds/bulbs/plants into the country, so try and do some homework before. Supposedly the gov't is going to start really looking at mail and fines are supposed to be stiff. Good luck. Sebrina

    Bookmark   November 16, 2003 at 8:46PM
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cjhin(Gauteng ZA)


Have a look at http://www.simplyindigenous.co.za. They have a bulb and aloe mail order catalogue, just ask them to e-mail it to you. They are a fairly respected indigenous grower in SA so you should not have any problems. I am not sure what their mailing to US/UK is like but I ordered from within SA and got some nice bulbs.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2003 at 1:57AM
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Someone said in an earlier posting, "Years ago a lecturer in a horticulture presentation who grew bulbs from seed made the point that seeds are the ticket for a lot of rare things and that one shouldn't be too scared of the time it takes to bring them to fruition."

I have to agree totally, but there is even more good news. If you are growing a rare plant, and if you have a few extras that you bring along, you can use the extras to trade for other rare plants.

So, when I start aloes, agaves or just about anything else, I make sure to plant more than I need (if I have the seed). Then, if germination is good, I have lots of little plants in about 18 months.

The 1- or 2- or 3-year old seedlings are are especially good for trading because:
1) the person at the other end doesn't have to wait so long for the plants to get to blooming-size,
2) because they are small enough to miminize shipping costs, and,
3) because sometimes folks will trade blooming-size bulbs for half-grown ones.



    Bookmark   January 1, 2004 at 3:54PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

Hi Joe,

How true. I've just been to NZ down under and it's very popular to do this because they have draconian plant importation laws. The locals have a very active plant trade and it just so happens that many are south african high veldt and cape plants. Too bad I could not bring some back due to our own draconian phyto laws. You've got to have an importer number and have a broker to clear customs and the USDA and it's a pain. RJ

    Bookmark   January 2, 2004 at 11:48AM
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