What's flowering this week - Sternbergia lutea.

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Fri, 30 Dec 2011 15:37:47 PST
Chad asked,
>0This [Sternbergia lutea] seems like such an ideal bulb for the San 
>Francisco Bay area, yet I have never seen any in gardens or for sale 
>other than online. Am I living under a rock, or is there a reason 
>they would be scarce ?

Yes, it would be am ideal bulb for much of California. However, the 
genus Sternbergia is CITES listed, and therefore it is extremely 
expensive to get the permit to export it from Europe. Add to this the 
fact that it is fall-flowering, never something that fits in well 
with the mass-market Dutch export system, and you have the reason it 
doesn't show up in common bulb catalogs or garden centers.

However, Sternbergias are pretty easy to grow from seed, much like 
the related Narcissus. I have a few that I received from European 
growers, and some more that I grew from seed. They flower in about 
four years from seed. I grow S. lutea, S. sicula, and a "half-sized" 
one that I believe to be a Cretan form of S. lutea in the open 
garden, in well-drained soil on a steep, sunny slope. In the bulb 
house are S. candida (from Archibalds' seed), S. greuteriana (from 
Antoine Hoog), S. clusiana (seed). and S. fischeri (seed). I used to 
have S. colchiciflora but lost it a few years ago; also grown from 
seed. The common ones increase well vegetatively and I distributed 
several when I was sending out my surplus bulb list.

One important thing to know about Sternbergias is that they are 
extremely attractive to the large bulb fly (Narcissus fly). After 
some sad losses, I began to cover the plants as soon as the leaves 
started to show senescence and before the bulb flies emerged. I 
covered those in the frames with Reemay, and those in the garden I 
just dumped a scoop of grit over, which will not harm them.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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