Parer tells her clients that once you know a pellie’s origins and habits—whether it naturally thrives on fog-bound bluffs or blooms in winter, for instance—they’re not difficult to please. To that she adds a few key rules: Don’t water pellies when they’re dormant. Given their origins, pellies can’t tolerate heavy soil or freezing temperatures, which, in most parts of the United States, means growing them in containers and whisking them indoors for the winter. In milder regions (USDA Zones 9 and 10), one can plant them in garden beds with very good drainage, making sure they have some shelter from the hottest summer sun.
Not often grown because of its long summer dormancy, this species thrives in mountainous scrubland on South Africa’s very dry Southern Cape. A rosette of hairy leaves sprouts from its underground tuber in spring, followed by tiny white-and-burgundy flowers.