Camassia are members of the lily family and this North American native plant is one that deserves to be in more gardens. Related and similar to the better known Scilla and Ornithogalum, this bulb puts on a great show. I’m told that the other name “Quamash” is from a North American Native language.

We do know the bulbs can be cooked and eaten (not that you’d want to do that unless you had a lot of them). As a summer bloomer, this is an excellent bulb for mixing into perennial borders.

Secret of Success

The trick to making these bulbs really perform is to give them excellent soil.

They prefer a deep, humus-rich soil (get out the compost) in an area that does not dry out.

Hardy into USDA zone 4, this is an excellent native bulb.

While there are between five and eight species (the botanists are discussing it) the two you’ll most likely find (when you can find them at all) are C. cusickii and C. leichtliniii.

camassia cusickii

Camassia cusickii

Interesting Varieties

C. cusickii

The flower colour on these bulbs is a light blue and this alone makes them worthwhile when they bloom in May and June (early summer bloomers).

Growing to 30 inches (there seems to be a lot of variability in height in this bulb depending on growing conditions and parent stock). Plant the base of the bulb approximately five inches deep and plant every seven to eight inches apart. The bulb takes full hot sun to light shade and it will also take a slightly damp soil. Heavy clay or really wet soils are not good but regular garden watering will not bother this plant (unlike tulips that resent being watered in the summer).

Once a bulb matures, you’ll often see upwards of 75 to 100 star-shaped little flowers on each stem and it makes an excellent cut flower if you can stand to cut it.

Book cover spring bulbs

C. leichtlinii

The colour of this bulb is described as a cream-white and it blooms in May to June as does the previous bulb. It is somewhat taller, the flower stem can reach 36 to 40 inches tall. But it is planted at the same depth, the base of the bulb goes to five inches deep and spaced similarly at seven to eight inches apart.

Growing in the full sun to part shade, this Camassia species also makes an excellent cut flower.

Note that there is a variety ‘Caerulea’ that has light blue flowers rather than the cream-white of the species.

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