Overview of the Native Australian Plant Genus Blandfordia

The Blandfordia genus is commonly known as Christmas bells. There are only four species in this genus and all are from eastern Australia. Although once part of the lily (Liliaceae) family, they have been moved to the Blandfordiaceae family. They are perennial, erect, lily-like herbs with narrow, tough, grass-like leaves. They grow in swampy, acid and sandy soils. The waxy flowers have six lobes and are tubular, pendulous and bell-like hence the name ‘Christmas bells’. The fruits contain numerous, small brown seeds. All species are favoured by birds.

Three of the four species have the common name Christmas bells while the fourth species is known as Tasmanian Christmas bells. This last species, Blandfordia punicea grows from 0.6 to 0.9 metres with a similar spread. It is found in the scrub and woodland country of Tasmania from sea level to 1,200 metres altitude. It is a larger plant than its relatives with leaves to 12mm wide. The leaves are tough with toothed margins and the flowers are tubular with red colouring on the outside and yellow inside. Flowering takes place in summer.

Blandfordia cunninghamii reaches 30 to 50 cm high and has a spread of 40 to 60cm. It is found only in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney in New South Wales. It has grass-like leaves. The flowers are red or orange with yellow lobes. The flowers appear in terminal groups of 5 to 15 in summer. It is happy in full sun or part shade.

Blandfordia grandiflora occurs in the heathy coastal lands of eastern Australia. It grows to 80cm in height with a spread of 25cm. It is a tufting, grass-like plant with large, very showy, bell-shaped flowers being produced on stems taller than foliage. The leaves are grass-like and up to 80cm long and minutely toothed. The flowering season is from December to January. The waxy flowers are usually red or orange with yellow lobes. This species prefers a moist situation and is suitable for gardens or containers.

Blandfordia nobilis grows to 80cm with a spread of 20cm. It is found in the coastal areas of southern New South Wales. The leaves are green, narrow, grassy and have rough edges. The flowers are not as bell-shaped as those of the other species. Before opening, the lobes are yellow or green. The tube is red or orange and the blooms appear in summer.

These plants can be grown in constantly moist to wet soil, which should be well-draining but can be acid or sandy. Propagation is from seed but germination is often slow.