Vanilla lily is a delightful tufted plant found in sandy wallum heathland and sub-coastal and mountain heath communities. In some areas it used to form colonies of considerable extent, but most of these areas have disappeared under development. It generally grows in association with small wallum shrubs and sedges, but does not like to be overshadowed by taller plants.
The leaves form blue-green, grasslike clumps rather like chives and the plants grow to about 40cm in height. The roots are fibrous-fleshed and lack any tubers. The flowers are borne in dense heads of more than 20 individual flowers on a single, unbranched stem. They are a delicate mauve shade with pink bracts, and have a delicious vanilla perfume. Flowering occurs in spring, and a field of vanilla lilies is a sight to behold!
In cultivation, S.juncea prefers a a sunny, moist situation. It can be grown as a container plant, or in a rockery, or a terrarium, and is useful around the edges of a pond. Unfortunately it is only rarely seen in cultivation.
Propagation is mainly by division of mature clumps. Successful propagation from seed has also been reported.
Photo: Murray Fagg – Australian National Botanic Gardens