The 7 Most Expensive Flowers in the World

Gloriosa rothschildiana - Flame Lily. Illustration by Denise Ramsay http://www.deniseramsay.com/flamelily

Gloriosa rothschildiana – Flame Lily. Illustration by Denise Ramsay http://www.deniseramsay.com/flamelily

In her non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean mentions the mystery ghost orchid, which charmed flower poacher John Laroche. This character can be called one of the most famous flower collectors of the modern world, but the first person who started collecting flowers (that we know of) was the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. She sent botanists to Somali to retrieve the olibanum (frankincence) tree to plant in Egypt – and they were successfully planted at her mortuary temple complex.

However, the most notable period of flower collecting was during the 1630s in the Netherlands. People caught in the grips of Tulip Mania gave away their family estates to purchase rare bulbs.

But the fever existed only up to the beginning of the 18th century. In 1700, the planting of flowers in greenhouses in the Netherlands was established. Now any florist like Reids is able to order and receive tulips, roses and lilies to sell in his/her shop straight from that country.

While roses and lilies are the bases of the flower industry, there are a great number of expensive and rare flowers that you might not have realised were so expensive. Here are seven of the world’s rarest and most expensive flowers.

glory-lilyGlory lily (6-10 USD per flower)

Also known as the fire or flame lily (Gloriosa superba, aka Gloriosa rothschildiana and Gloriosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’), this striking flower is as beautiful as it is poisonous (all parts of the plant are poisonous) and can be fatal if eaten – not that you’d want to do that.

But the high cost is because this spectacular plant, native to tropical Asia and Africa, is not often seen in shops. It’s also because harvesting can be tricky. These plants are climbers and can grow up to 5m in their native soil.

Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’ (10,000 guilders per bulb)

Tulip-Semper-AugustusHarking back to Tulip Mania, ‘Semper Augustus’ was originally grown in Holland in the 17th century. It was especially valuable because of its rare, fiery vein-like patterns on its white petals. Shortly before the Tulip Mania period was over, one ‘Semper Augustus’ bulb cost 10,000 guilders (about 5700 USD). In those days for the same amount of money you were able to buy a huge house in Amsterdam or supply a whole family with food and clothing for half a century.

Saffron crocus (1200-1500 USD per 500g)

crocus-saffronThe bright red stigmas of Crocus sativus are the source of saffron, which is the world’s most expensive spice. Each flower produces only three stigmas, and each bulb produces only one flower. To make up 500g of spice, you need more than 80,000 flowers, which, as you can imagine, amounts to an incredible cost. Another way to put it: about 50-60 flowers produce 1 tablespoon of saffron. The plants also need specific soil and growing conditions to grow well.

Rothschild’s slipper orchid (5000 USD per plant)

Paph._rothschildianumPaphiopedilum rothschildianum, known as the Gold of Kinabalu orchid, was discovered in 1987, after which it came close to extinction due to the increased interest of smugglers. Thankfully, the population was restored by scientists, but the flower itself is still hard to reach. Wild species can be found only in the Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia, and from planting to getting the first flower, a number of years are needed.

Shenzhen Nongke orchid (202,000 USD per plant)

Shenzhen-Nongke-OrchidYou won’t find this orchid in the wild. It was cultivated in the lab by the Shenzhen Nongke Group – and it took the Chinese agricultural scientists eight years to develop it.

In 2005, it was sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for 1.69 million YUAN (about 202,000 USD). It is the most expensive flower purchased… ever.

The orchid blooms only once every four to five years.

‘Juliet’ rose (5 million USD)

juliet-roseOK, so the rose itself doesn’t cost that much, but it’s what it cost famous rose breeder David Austin to develop it. ‘Juliet’ was the first David Austin rose to be cultivated specifically for the cut flower industry and it took 15 years to create.

And it’s a beauty. When fully open, the blooms reveal neatly arranged petals nestled in the heart of the flower. Gorgeous!

In 2006, at the Chelsea Flower Show, UK, it attracted thousands of florists and rose lovers.

Epiphyllum flower (the price is not determined)

Kadupul-flowerEpiphyllum oxypetalum grows in Sri Lanka and blooms very rarely. When it does bloom, the petals open only at night, making this a very elusive yet beautiful flower. The flowers wither again before dawn.

In their native wild, the flowers are pollinated by bats and large moths, hence there is no need for them to be open during the day. Being white, the flowers stand out at night.

Daffodil ‘Mount Hood’

daffodil mount hood2daffodil-mount-hood1Have you planted your daffodils yet? I have  a large bag of them to plant, though I have no idea what variety they are. They were given to me – so it’s kind of like a lucky dip. I do like white ones though. Like this gorgeous variety called ‘Mount Hood’. I might need to get some more daffs to ensure I have some white ones too.

‘Mount Hood’ is available from Fiesta Bulbs.

Photo credits: Top image from here; Bottom image from Wayside Gardens.

Plant Now: Lily of the Valley


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Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a rhizomatous perennial with nodding white bell-shaped flowers in spring. The flowers are highly perfumed, adding a delicious fragrance to indoor displays.

The trouble is, these plants are not that freely available here. I suggest searching for them on the internet, or try Maple Glen Nursery in Southland.

You can find a rose-blushed version too, from Ashton Glen and Wake Robin Nurseries.

Plant in fertile, free-draining soil in part shade. These are woodland plants, so avoid full sun. Water well after planting, then water as needed throughout the growing season. Adequate moisture is not usually an issue here with our wet winters.

Plant Now: Daffodils


daffodils yellow dress
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Have you planted your daffodils yet? Now’s the time to do so. Late autumn, when the soil starts to cool down, is the ideal time to get daffodil bulbs in the ground.

When choosing bulbs, big is best. Smaller bulbs may not flower the first season. The bulbs should be clean and free from any blemishes, or you may find they’ll do nothing but rot. Feel them to ensure there are no soft spots.

In warmer areas place them in the fridge for a few weeks before planting to ensure bud initiation.

Plant bulbs in free-draining soil in sun. If the ground is too wet, particularly during summer when the soil is warm, bulbs may rot. Plant daffodils so the base of the bulb is about 15cm below the soil surface, or in light soils 20cm deep.

Daffodils are not heavy feeders. Fork in some bulb food before planting, then once again as the leaves begin to emerge – and that’s it until the flowers die down. After flowering, the bulbs begin to store food for the following season, so this is the most important time to feed and water.

Top image is from Bridal Musings; Image second from bottom is from Lock Cottage Flowers.

Spring anemones


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anemones-purple2anemones-purple1
If you haven’t already, you can get your winter/spring anemones planted now. Gosh, I love these plants. They are one of my absolute favourite flowers, and year after year they give me loads and loads of pretty blooms – all from such tiny, ugly bulbs (actually corms). They continue to flower for two to three months (sometimes longer), and last for about seven days in the vase.

To break dormancy and encourage germination and good flower production, place corms in the fridge prior to planting (six weeks). Then soak for a few hours in tepid water before planting out in full sun in compost-enriched soil. The bulb packet should indicate how to plant them, but for the record, plant anemones with the corms pointy side down.

These bulbs are gluttons for food. Feed with a general purpose fertiliser once a month and keep well watered. They will continue to flower if you do this, so you will have lots of blooms to pick for indoors. The corms do sometimes produce flowers the following year, but it’s best to plant fresh ones each year.

Corms are in shops now, or look to specialist mailorder nurseries such as NZ Bulbs.

Bulbs in bloom


spring blooms

Spring blooms. How lovely. Not much more to say, really. They’re divine.

Image via Tumblr

Bulbs for shade

grape-hyacinthsbluebells-scillaErythronium-Pagoda
Looking for spring bulbs for a shaded spot? There are several that do well out of full sun.

Bluebells, both English (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and Spanish (Hyacinthoides hispanica) forms, naturalise well, especially in dappled shade and moist, humus-rich soil. English bluebells can be distinguished from Spanish bluebells by their cream stamens (the Spanish have blue stamens). The flowers of the Spanish bluebell are larger and showier. The middle photo above shows bluebells with scilla.

Bulbs for naturalising need more room than other bulbs to allow room for multiplying, so take that into consideration when planting your bluebells.

Erythronium, or dog’s tooth violets, are woodland plants that grow best in shade in humus-rich soil. They naturalise readily beneath trees and shrubs, preferring cooler regions with relatively dry summers. The nodding flowers appear in spring and come in shades of yellow, pink and creamy white. ‘White Beauty’ is a popular form, with marble leaves and creamy-white flowers up to 15cm high. Corms are planted in autumn. Position them 8-10cm deep and 5-8cm apart. The photo of the yellow erythroniums above is from Aberdeen Gardening. Check out more of their gorgeous photos. [Read more…]

Plant Now: Freesias


Bunch of spring flowers
Freesia Gabrielle
I get ridiculously excited when new cut flower varieties are released, like this gorgeous freesia called ‘Gabrielle’, from GardenPost (bottom image). Grown commercially for the cut flower market, its long stems (40cm high) and fragrant white flowers are ideal for picking.

Freesia corms can be planted now for late winter/spring blooms. Plant corms 5cm deep and 8-10cm apart in a well-drained spot in sun or light shade. Blooms typically appear 110-120 days after corms are planted. Stagger planting times for a longer flowering season, but don’t plant out too late – flowering during longer days reduces the number of flowers per raceme as well as the number of lateral flower stems. Optimum soil temperature for flower initiation is 12-15degC.

Plant Now: Anemones


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Anemones are my all-time favourite spring bulbs – these and ranunculus which come a very close second. I have a whole lot of the divine Anemone ‘Bordeaux’ (top image) sitting in the fridge at the moment, ready for planting out. (‘Bordeaux’ is pretty much sold out in New Zealand. Though if you’re lucky you may still find a pack at your local garden centre. These came from GardenPost, also sold out.) Anemones can be planted from now until May (late autumn). An earlier planting will produce winter blooms, a later one will give you spring blooms.

To break dormancy and encourage germination and good flower production, place corms in the fridge prior to planting (six weeks for anemones, four weeks for ranunculus). Then soak for a few hours in tepid water before planting out in full sun. Plant corms with the pointy side down.

Anemones are gluttons for food. Feed with a general purpose fertiliser once a month and keep well watered.

Plant Now: Tulips

 

Pink tulips in a bowlPink tulips in a bowlBunch of Tulips
Tulip bulbs can be planted now – and up to June in warm areas. Plant at least twice the depth of the bulb, in a sunny position in deep, rich, well-drained soil. Add slow-release fertiliser to the soil when planting.

Tulips grow well in containers too, but potted tulips must be kept in a cool spot for several months for flowers to bloom successfully. Pots quickly heat up in sun, so place in a shady part of the garden and water enough to keep the soil just moist. When the first shoots appear, shift the container into strong light and then gradually into direct sunlight and increase watering.