How to grow Calochortus, the novel

Mary Sue Ittner
Sun, 08 Aug 2010 08:35:54 PDT

It was very nice for Hugh MacDonald to give permission to add his 
experience with Calochortus on the wiki. I have kept all the old 
issues of Mariposa and they are treasures of information. Jim 
Robinett suggested that Calochortus would grow better in deep wooden 
containers, especially in my wet climate and to avoid plastic. So I 
have done that as they don't retain water like plastic. I like that 
Hugh has given suggestions for various climates as that at least 
gives you a place to start with the best chance of success. Some of 
the species he lists for mild/moist which would be my description 
I've not had luck growing.

These are the best performers for me that I can leave outside exposed 
to the elements and most every year they will bloom:
Calochortus albus, Calochortus amabilis (have to start new ones from 
seed occasionally), Calochortus amoenus (but dwindles), Calochortus 
argillosus, C. splendens, C. syntrophus, C. superbus, C. tolmiei, C. 
umbellatus, C. uniflorus, C. venustus (performance is erratic), C. vestae

Jim used to say to get C. vestae to bloom reliably you needed to keep 
it well watered and fertilized. The ones that make offsets at least 
keep you in business. I think that is why I still have C. venustus as 
it produces new ones to make up for the ones that die. Calochortus 
uniflorus even if not very spectacular blooms the longest for me. It 
is native to where I live, but rarely blooms in the ground for me 
even if I plant it in situations that look like where I see it 
growing. But in containers it does great. I just let nature water 
them and move them into the shade in summer. This past growing 
season, I had one bulb or another flowering in October, November 
(both of these were very strange times), February, March, April, May.

I used to have good luck with C. luteus, but seem to have lost it. I 
have some open pollinated ones that I call Mariposa Hybrids and they 
do very well. I lost C. pulchellus and C. monophyllus. Some years I 
get bloom from C. catalinae, C. simulans, C. plummerae, C. 
umpquanensis  and have had bloom from C. weedii and C. clavatus, but 
these are chancy for me even if I sheltered them from the rain. I 
think it is just too humid. The last two years I've had a couple of 
blooms from C. obispoensis, in fact it has a bud right now that will 
open soon. One C. clavatus out of many different pots and subspecies 
opened yesterday. Nothing from the rest of them. It's gorgeous, but I 
suspect that eventually all of this species will be history. It's too 
bad, but at least I got to see them flower. At this stage of the game 
I am most interested in growing the things that like the climate I have.

I've written this before, but since most years we have our heaviest 
rainfall in the winter, I had better luck with seeds that I planted 
late January than those started earlier. Usually they don't germinate 
for about a month and by then the rain is less and the humidity is 
less and so I don't lose as many. That wouldn't have been true this 
year however as we continued to have rainfall into June.

Mary Sue

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