Scilla peruviana

John C. MacGregor
Mon, 28 Jun 2010 00:28:42 PDT
>> I recently bought a bunch of geophytes in a fit of enthusiasm. One  
>> of them is Scilla peruviana. Has anyone grown it in the ground in  
>> a colder climate?
>> - Barbara Weintraub
>> Santa Fe, New Mexico
>> 6700 feet elevation
>> (Think high desert)
>> nominally zone 5b

On Jun 27, 2010, at 7:46 PM, Jane McGary wrote:

> Scilla peruviana (despite the name, about which there is a  
> "confused botanist" story) is native to Spain, where it grows in  
> the mountains at mid elevations. I grow it outdoors in Oregon,  
> where it survives and flowers after winter temperatures in the mid- 
> teens F. It is well adapted to dry summers, which Barbara probably  
> does not have in New Mexico -- I believe the rains there are mostly  
> in late summer? In the wild, I saw it growing amid shrubs and in  
> roadside ditches, in considerable shade.

Jane, Barbara,

Summer water should be no impediment to growing Scilla peruviana in  
Santa Fe--or anywhere else, for that matter.

First, the area where it is native--southwestern Spain, southern  
Portugal, and northwestern Africa, the Mediterranean summers are  
considerably less dry than ours in California, with occasional summer  
storms blowing in from the Atlantic.

Second, Scilla peruviana has naturalized in Cuba and other Caribbean  
countries that are certainly NOT summer-dry.

Third, in several gardens I care for here in the Pasadena area, I  
have Scilla peruviana planted in beds mixed with a wide range of  
other plants--bulbs, perennials, roses and other shrubs from all  
parts of the world--southern California versions of English mixed  
borders.  These beds are given regular twice-weekly water at all  
times of year when nature fails to provide us with an inch of rain.   
We have lost some of the South African Cape bulbs and many other  
California and mediterranean-climate plants with this treatment, but  
Scilla peruviana thrives, multiplies, blooms regularly, and even  
seeds around.

Actually, the continental climate of the mountains of Castilla is  
remarkably similar to that of the mountains of Central New Mexico.   
(Born in Albuquerque, I lived and gardened for several years in Santa  
Fe.)  Occasionally snowy winters, usually without persistent snow  
cover, and temperatures down to zero F. and below would be the  
limiting factors in Santa Fe.  Deep planting with very good drainage,  
a protected exposure near the south side of a house, and a thick  
mulch might help to overcome these factors, but even so I would  
hesitate to experiment with more than a couple bulbs.  Scilla  
Peruviana is usually recommended for USDA zones 8-10--marginal in z.  
7 with a heavy mulch.

Barbara, you would probably be safer to grow yours in a good-sized  
pot indoors in winter, and put it outside in early June for the  
summer.  It should go dormant in July and August (in spite of rains)  
but begin to grow foliage again in September and retain long green  
leaves through the winter, blooming about April.  Bring it inside  
before the first hard frost.

Jane, not to steal your thunder, but if I remember correctly (please  
correct me if I don't), back in the Sixteenth Century a consignment  
of Scilla peruviana collected wild in Spain was delivered to England  
aboard a Spanish galleon named the "Peru".  The plant retained the  
association with the name of the ship, from which Parkinson picked up  
the epithet.  Linnaeus repeated this name, believing it was a native  
or Peru.

John C. MacGregor IV
Horticultural Consultant
Garden Design and Maintenance
Writer, Photographer, Lecturer
South Pasadena, CA, USA
USDA Zone 9
Sunset Zones 21/23

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