Methods to Develop and Look after Camassia (Wild Hyacinth)

Camassia spp.

The comeliest members of the asparagus household, Asparagaceae, camas aka wild hyacinths (Camassia spp.), look extra like lilies than any vegetable I’ve ever recognized.

For those who look at the leaves, the household resemblance turns into somewhat clearer. Arising from an underground bulb, the leaves are lengthy, slender, and strap-shaped in look

Earlier than they open, the flowers look somewhat bit just like the spear of an asparagus.

A horizontal shot of blue camassia growing in a field.

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The taxonomic debate over the place to categorise this stunning bulb has been lengthy and tiring. The genus was beforehand categorized within the Liliaceae or lily household, and after DNA sequencing, it was reclassified as a part of the Asparagaceae household.

There are six species within the Camassia genus, and so they hail primarily from the western area of North America, all the best way from northwestern Canada to southern California and Texas. One species, C. scilloides, is native to the jap half of the US.

These totally different species are sometimes referred to by the identical frequent names which embody camas, camas lily, Indian hyacinth, quamash, and wild hyacinth.

Tolerant of clay soils, partial shade, and hardy in USDA Zones 3 to eight, these bulbs usually carry out finest in organically-rich, evenly moist soils.

The tall flower spike that makes them such a sought-after backyard plant is lined with delicate, six-petalled blooms, every sporting lengthy, yellow-tipped stamens.

Whether or not you’re trying to find pink, white, or blue flowers, and even variegated foliage, there are a selection of various cultivars to select from!

Learn on to search out out extra about rising this late-spring bloomer. Right here’s what I’ll cowl:

Cultivation and Historical past

There’s extra to wild hyacinth than only a fairly face. This stunning bulb has lengthy been an vital meals staple of Indigenous American teams all throughout its native vary.

A horizontal close up photo of blue Camassia, aka wild hyacinth flowers pictured on a soft focus background.

In line with Lewis and Clark’s diary of their well-known expedition, the Nez Perce of Idaho fed the adventuring duo a meal of bison and wild hyacinth roots.

The meal might not have gone over nicely with their inexperienced stomachs, however the bulbs of those vegetation, when cooked slowly, are a wonderful supply of sweet-tasting fructose.

The Nez Perce had been recognized to historically give luggage of the bulbs as items at giant ceremonies, similar to weddings or funerals, or in alternate for different items.

Household teams would journey giant distances to reap these vegetation. Within the rising season the mushy, tender leaves had been used to make mattresses.

Annual, managed burning was carried out to take care of the open, prairie-like habitat these bulbs must thrive and unfold.

A horizontal close up photo of a camas bloom growing wild in a meadow.

The adaptable frequent camas, C. quamash, was launched to Europe for cultivation in 1850. Probably the most widespread of the Camassia species, frequent camas reaches heights of about 18 inches and is hardy in Zones 4 to eight.

In horticulture, most cultivars are derived from C. leichtlinii, in any other case generally known as giant camas. This species reaches mature heights of about 4 ft and is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Jap camas aka wild hyacinth, C. scilloides, is the one Camassia species with white flowers and it’s hardy in Zones 4 to eight.

Though they’re nonetheless not as standard as many frequent European spring bulbs such because the cheery daffodil, they’re among the many few native spring bloomers that get pleasure from moist soils. That’s an vital area of interest to fill!

These days, wild camas are threatened by the lack of habitat because of improvement, the alteration of wildfire regimes, and competitors from invasive species.

The big, untouched meadows by which these bulbs thrive are quickly disappearing. Planting native species in our personal yard can play a small however important function in serving to to preserve and preserve these vegetation on the panorama.

Camassia Propagation

The excellent news is that there are a number of methods to get Camassia began in your personal yard.

A horizontal shot of camassia plants in bloom growing in the garden along a brick sidewalk.

The even higher information is that these stunning bulbs unfold by way of offsets and may self seed on their very own, too.

From Seed

For those who’re up for a problem, camas will be grown from seed. Ensure you’re in it for the lengthy haul, nevertheless, as rising bulbs by way of this methodology takes years. You’ll have to attend as much as 4 years earlier than you possibly can feast your eyes on a flower. 

You may acquire seeds after the vegetation have completed flowering. For those who select to gather seed from a wild inhabitants, ensure you have permission to take action first.

When the seed capsules flip yellow or brown and are crammed with agency, darkish seeds, minimize them off the plant and take away the seeds.

In case you are amassing from the wild, take a most of 10 % of accessible seed in order that the wild creatures that rely on this meals supply received’t go hungry. It’s additionally vital to depart sufficient seed behind in order that pure dispersal can happen and new vegetation can develop.

Seeds from all Camassia species require a interval of chilly therapy, or stratification, to make sure germination. Durations of chilly, moist climate assist break down the onerous coat surrounding the seed, enabling it to germinate.

Stratification will be accomplished outdoors, if you happen to stay someplace within the native vary of those bulbs. For those who stay in colder or hotter areas, you’ll have to make use of the fridge as an alternative.

Seeds bought from plant nurseries or on-line will usually have been cold-stratified already, so examine earlier than you sow.

If it is advisable to cold-stratify your seeds, place them in a moist paper towel in a plastic zip-top bag. Set them within the fridge for 90 days and hold the paper towel moist. Examine periodically and discard any that develop mildew.

When stratification is full after 90 days, unfold your seeds evenly throughout the floor of a seedling flat or gallon-sized pot crammed with damp potting soil.

Evenly – and I imply flippantly! – cowl with moistened vermiculite or grit.

Germination requires spring-like temperatures, fluctuating between 50 to 70℉, and vivid, oblique gentle. Don’t disturb your container or flat because the seedlings start to emerge, and hold the soil moist, however not soaking moist.

Seedlings, which can have a look at first like teeny-tiny blades of grass, needs to be saved evenly moist with common watering.

As soon as your seedlings attain just a few inches excessive, which can take roughly a yr, you possibly can transplant them into an appropriate, ready location within the backyard, or into bigger, particular person pots crammed with moistened potting soil.

Dividing Offsets

Camassia species produce offsets, in any other case generally known as child bulbs. Within the wild, this is among the major methods these vegetation unfold. For those who or a buddy have an current clump of untamed hyacinth, you possibly can divide and transplant these offsets to a different location.

Use a gardening fork to pry up a clump, taking care to not minimize by or harm any bulbs. Brush the soil away from the bulbs, and gently peel off any new offsets.

Attempt to plant these offsets instantly in order that they don’t dry out.

Relocate them to locations with the identical primary situations that allowed their dad and mom to prosper: numerous water, daylight, and wealthy, deep soil.

Transplanting Potted Vegetation

Bulbs are sometimes offered in giant portions, so in order for you only a few camas lilies, see if you could find blooming, potted vegetation at a superb high quality nursery within the spring.

Bulbs usually do finest planted throughout dormancy within the fall, however if you happen to discover potted specimens you possibly can plant them out at any level throughout the rising season.

Website your new addition in an space of the backyard with full solar to partial shade and wealthy, evenly moist soil.

Ensure to dig the outlet simply deep sufficient in order that the plant sits on the similar stage because it was in its current container. Gently take away the plant from the pot, set it within the gap and backfill with soil. Water in nicely.

From Bulbs

The perfect, best, and hottest option to get these beautiful natives rising in your backyard is to plant bulbs within the fall.

I prefer to plant all my bulbs after we have now had a frost, so I do know chilly climate has really arrived.

A vertical photo of camassia bulbs spread out on a wicker background.

As a normal rule of thumb, bulbs needs to be planted at twice the depth of their heights, with the sharp facet going through up.

The totally different Camassia species have totally different sized bulbs, however most needs to be buried about 5 to 6 inches deep, and roughly the identical size aside.

Plant your bulbs in moisture-retentive, deep, wealthy loam if you happen to can.

As talked about above, they’ll tolerate clay soils, or soils which are sandy and freely draining, however they received’t carry out as nicely and can want common watering.

Methods to Develop Camassia

Camas is a reasonably low upkeep bulb as long as water provide is ample in spring and summer season, whereas the plant is actively rising.

Most species are chilly hardy and may thrive in USDA Zones 4 to eight. Earlier than planting, ensure you match the species you’ve chosen to your climatic zone.

A horizontal close up of the blooms of a bright blue camassia plant in the sunshine.

Develop your camas vegetation in organically-rich, barely acidic soil with a pH of round 6.0 to 7.0. If potential, plant them in full solar however they are going to be high quality in partial shade.

Though species within the Camassia genus can tolerate dry situations for a short while, they’ll want common watering within the spring and summer season months within the absence of rain, significantly if they’re rising in freely-draining soils. Goal to maintain the soil evenly moist however not waterlogged.

The way in which I water my camas vegetation is to show the hose on to only a trickle, and depart it on the base of the vegetation for a few hours.

For those who’ve planted these bulbs en masse and watering by hand is troublesome, be sure that to situate them the place moisture will stay constant no matter rainfall.

As soon as bulbs have gone dormant, normally in the direction of the tip of summer season, the soil will be allowed to dry out somewhat.

A vertical photo of a bee on a wild camas flower covered in pollen, pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

For these flowers, the richer the soil, the higher. In case your vegetation are rising in common to poor soils they received’t carry out nicely and should ultimately die.

A thick prime dressing of compost in spring and fall will assist increase the natural content material of common soils. Add three inches to the soil and water it in nicely so vitamins trickle all the way down to the roots.

Perhaps you’ve gotten a moist meadow simply eager for some coloration? A low spot that retains a little bit of moisture by spring and early summer season? Or a border, with wealthy, deep soil? These areas are all good for Camassia.

Rising Ideas

  • Plant in wealthy, evenly moist soils.
  • Website in a location with full solar, although vegetation will tolerate somewhat afternoon shade.
  • Water nicely throughout any dry durations, particularly throughout the rising season.
  • High costume website with compost in spring and fall if rising in lean soil.

Pruning and Upkeep

When grown in optimum situations, Camassia vegetation are nearly maintenance-free.

Simply don’t neglect to water, water, water if there’s no rain within the forecast. The soil moisture stage is especially vital in spring by summer season, when the plant is actively rising.

A vertical close up shot of a light blue camassia flower growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

You may take away outdated leaves in late summer season after they’ve turned yellow and are straightforward to tug off, however in naturalized areas simply allow them to naturally degrade, offering natural materials for the soil.

Don’t be tempted to trim off the foliage whereas it’s nonetheless inexperienced. Regardless that the flowers could also be accomplished blooming, the leaves are nonetheless performing the important work of constructing meals to retailer of their underground bulb for subsequent yr’s show.

Fall is the proper time to divide mature clumps of bulbs, too. If dividing bulbs isn’t your factor, don’t do it! Camas will slowly unfold with or with out your assist.

Camassia Cultivars to Choose

One of many solely native North American spring bulbs, Camassia species are nonetheless, surprisingly, not generally present in landscaping.

Nonetheless, there’s loads of range within the genus and a lot of attention-grabbing cultivars to select from.

Blue Heaven

‘Blue Heaven’ is a C. leichtlinii cultivar that options pale, pastel blue flowers atop two- to three-foot flower stalks.

A vertical product shot of a Blue Heaven camassia plant in full bloom.

‘Blue Heaven’

You could find ‘Blue Heaven’ bulbs accessible at Burpee.

Blue Melody

A C. quamash cultivar, ‘Blue Melody’ has darkish blue flowers that distinction superbly with the yellow stamens and vivid inexperienced, barely variegated leaves.

Vegetation prime out at one to 2 ft tall.

A square product shot of Blue Melody camassia plant in full bloom in the garden.

‘Blue Melody’

You could find packages of 20 bulbs accessible from Caribbean Backyard Seed by way of Walmart.

Pink Star

‘Pink Star’ is a C. leichtlinii cultivar with pale pink, nearly salmon coloured flowers. This cultivar tops out at about two and a half ft tall.


‘Sacajawea’ is among the most prolific white-flowering C. leichtlinii cultivars.

A vertical photo of several Sacajawea camassia plants with white blooms in the wild.

This cultivar grows to roughly three ft excessive. The flowers are off-white and the leaves variegated.

Managing Pests and Illness

Like many native vegetation, there’s not a lot that bothers camas within the pest or illness division.

What a welcome aid when so many standard bulbs, just like the lilies, have fairly the other expertise!


Whereas wild hyacinth is no one’s favourite snack, moose, elk and deer do sometimes graze members of the Camassia genus, significantly in early spring.

Burrowing rodents similar to gophers can dig bulbs as much as eat however typically find yourself replanting and spreading the bulbs inadvertently in the event that they neglect the place they saved their underground cache.


Loads of bugs depend on wild hyacinth for pollen and nectar, significantly in spring when it’s one of many first flowers out in abundance, however few bugs, if any, do harm that want concern a gardener.

Not even slugs and snails that usually love the moist locations these bulbs develop appear to trigger any harm.


Miracle of miracles, Camassia is amazingly illness free, too!

After all issues with these bulbs can and do come up however points sometimes must do with moisture – both an absence thereof or soils which are too waterlogged.

Waterlogged situations could cause bulb rot and ultimately kill the plant.

On the whole, points with moisture may end up in decreased blooming, smaller bulbs, and in extreme drought or waterlogging, dying of the plant. Bear in mind, evenly moist situations are the important thing to success.

Greatest Makes use of for Camassia

Definitely, wild hyacinth is at its finest when allowed to fill huge swaths of inexperienced area. You probably have the land, take into consideration emulating how this plant grows within the wild, blue flowers mirroring blue sky.

White or pink cultivated varieties look fantastic when they’re mass planted, too, however the blue flowering species similar to C. quamash are the very best naturalizers.

For those who don’t have a spot the place Camassia can freely naturalize, that’s okay too. The iridescent flowers look fantastic in a spring border, and even as a seasonal show in a pot.

Attempt the white or pink flowering wild hyacinths in broad swaths in a large mattress. The blossoms of all species and cultivars make nice minimize flowers, too.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Sort: Perennial flowering bulb Flower/Foliage Colour: Blue, white, pink/gentle inexperienced
Native to: North America Tolerance: Clay soil, drought, deer, ailments
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 4-9, relying on the species Upkeep: Low
Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer season Soil Sort: Organically-rich, moist loam
Publicity: Full solar to partial afternoon shade Soil pH: 6.0-7.0
Time to Maturity: 3-5 years Soil Drainage: Effectively-draining
Spacing: 5-6 inches Attracts: Bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, wasps
Planting Depth: 4-6 inches deep (bulbs), floor of the soil (seeds), similar depth as container (transplants) Makes use of: Backyard mattress, naturalized areas, wildlife backyard, rain backyard, minimize flower.
Top: 1-4 ft Order: Asparagales
Unfold: 6 inches Household: Asparagaceae
Water Wants: Average-high (spring and summer season), moderate-low (dormancy) Genus: Camassia
Frequent Pests and Illnesses: Slugs and snails; bulb rot Species: Angusta, cusickii, howelii, leichtlinii, quamash, scilloides

Great Wild Hyacinth

Good for moist spots the place different bulbs can’t develop, wild hyacinth is an effective alternative for the eco-friendly, native plant gardener.

You probably have the area, allow them to unfold out and luxuriate in an considerable spring show.

A horizontal photo zoomed in on a blue camassia flower pictured on a soft focus background.

Have you ever ever grown wild hyacinth or seen it blooming within the wild? Which species do you like probably the most?

Inform us how how your vegetation at dwelling are doing, the place they’re rising, and what pollinators you’ve seen having fun with them. Have you ever ever eaten a Camassia bulb? Tell us within the feedback part under!

And to study extra about different spring flowering bulbs, take a look at these guides subsequent:

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