how to plant, grow & care for camassia
complete growing guide
Camassias are a wonderful sight in April and May when their brilliant firework spikes emerge in blue, violet and white. They hold the fort between the spring tulips, which are just coming to an end, and summer’s full burst of colour. Even better, camassias are one of the most tolerant and long-lived bulbs you can grow – they don’t mind heavy soil and, undisturbed, they will gradually multiply to form good clumps.
They are wonderful naturalised in meadows and long grass, with their star-like florets poking up above the blades, and they look equally good in drifts through borders.
Take a look at our range of camassia bulbs, ready to plant in autumn for spring flowers.
- Common name Wild hyacinth
- Latin name Camassia
- Type Perennial Bulb
- Height 30cm (12in) to 90cm (3ft)
- TLC rating Easy
- Aspect Full Sun or Part Shade
- Planting position Border or grass
- Suitable for pots Yes
- Good for pollinators Yes
- Good for cut flowers Yes
how to grow camassias
where to grow camassias
Soil type: Camassias prefer humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil. They are happy in heavy soil.
Aspect & position: Plant camassia bulbs in full sun or part shade.
when to plant camassias
Autumn is the best time to plant camassia bulbs directly outdoors.
how to plant camassias
planting camassia bulbs
Plant camassia bulbs in autumn in a site that gets plenty of sun, though they will tolerate partial shade.
Use a bulb planter or a trowel to make a hole for each bulb. Plant the bulbs at least 10-15cm (4-6in) deep (that’s about twice the height of the bulb) and space them at least 10cm (4in) apart.
The bulbs are rounded and have small pointy ends – plant with the pointy end facing upwards.
After planting, water the camassias in well, gently soaking the soil to settle it around the bulbs if the weather is dry.
naturalising camassia bulbs in grass
The bulbs can be naturalised in grass, but be aware that the leaves are slow to die down in summer, which makes mowing difficult, especially as grasses grow vigorously in the moist, heavy soil that camassias like. However, if you have an area where the leaves can be allowed to die down naturally, camassias can give you a long and lovely spring display.
growing camassia in a pot
Camassia bulbs don’t like to be disturbed so are better suited to growing in the garden rather than pots. However, they can work well in a container in loam-based compost.
To protect the bulbs grown in a pot against frost, place the pot in a frost-free place over winter. Water well during dry periods.
how to care for camassias
Water in newly planted camassia bulbs. After this, they should get enough water from the rain. Water during prolonged dry periods and keep an eye on bulbs planted in containers. Water them freely during a drought.
Camassias generally don’t need added feed, but those growing in a border can be mulched.
Only cut back foliage when it has completely died back in summer. Flowers can be cut off at the base once they’ve faded unless you’re planning to save the seed.
propagating & dividing
Camassia bulbs will gradually clump-up over time. To divide, lift the bulbs in summer (after flowing, when the bulbs are dormant), and then separate the clumps to plant elsewhere in the garden.
Bulbs can be propagated by removing the offsets that have formed around the main bulbs – these can be replanted individually.
Alternatively, collect seed when it is ripe in early summer. Sow in a seed tray and leave it in a cold frame to germinate. It can take up to three years to flower.
Camassia bulbs planted in containers should be placed somewhere frost free. Bulbs in the ground are usually hardy, but if you live in a very cold area of the UK, the soil should be mulched to protect the bulbs in late autumn.
- Enjoy your camassia flowers in April, May and into June.
- Water during prolonged dry periods.
- Wait for foliage to completely die back before trimming.
- Summer is the best time to lift and divide any clumps.
- Plant camassia bulbs directly outdoors in a sunny position.
- Place any camassias planted in containers somewhere frost free.
pests, diseases & common issues
Camassias are very unlikely to be affected by pests or diseases and don’t even seem to be troubled by slugs.
why is my camassia not flowering?
It could be due to a lack of watering through a dry period, or if it’s been a very wet winter and spring, it could be that the soil has become waterlogged and the bulbs have rotted. If you have an established clump of camassia, the bulbs could have become crowded. If this is the case, lift them in summer and divide the bulbs to plant elsewhere in the garden.
frequently asked questions
when do camassia flower?
Camassias flower in spring in April, May and into June.
how deep should you plant camassia bulbs?
Plant bulbs with the pointy end up at about twice the height of the bulb – around 10-15cm (4-6in) deep.
do you deadhead a camassia?
You can snip off faded flowers at the base of the stem, but leave foliage in place to die back completely before trimming.
should you cut back camassias after flowering?
You can leave the flowerhead to fade and the seed to ripen if you want to collect the seed. Foliage should be left in place until it has completely died back in summer.
are camassias poisonous?
Camassias may be mildly irritating to cats, dogs and other animals.
are camassias hardy?
They are hardy in many areas around the UK, but if you live in a very cold area, mulch the soil over winter to protect the bulbs. And place containers somewhere frost free.
are camassia bulbs perennial?
Yes, camassia is a perennial bulb and will return and multiply each year.
how to cut & arrange camassias
Camassias make wonderful cut flowers and last for about a week. Cut them in the morning or evening and leave them in a bucket of water somewhere cool overnight before arranging in a vase.
Get more inspiration for displaying your flowers with our flower arranging videos and articles: