Scilla peruviana

Started by Uli, December 02, 2022, 10:55:26 AM

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Here is Brian's question, my reply below 

In the UK (SE in my Case) This species bulb grows very easily and 
increases each year with just a couple of summer months when it is not 
visible. If left in the ground it forms a congested clump of numerous 
small bulbs after a few years and more or less stops flowering. If 
lifted and split up every couple of years you can get each group 
flowering regularly on the larger of the bulbs. Any winter frosts make 
it look a bit sad but it soon recovers before flowering. Are there ideal 
conditions that give more reliable flowering each year? What happens in 
the wild; does it form congested non flowering clumps or do much poorer 
soils and higher temperatures stop it from multiplying so much? Are we 
just too kind to it or is it our long drawn out periods of indifferent 
weather to blame?

Brian, still no real frosts so far and very green again after a period 
of several weeks drought; weeds and moss replacing some of my lawn turf.

Hello Brian,

Scilla peruviana is a Portuguese native bulb and I have seen it in different places. The species is very variable and can be compact, almost dwarf and ground hugging or tall and upright and everything in between. Flower color can vary as well as the width of the individual leaf.
A common feature of the native habitat is that it always grows in fertile soil, mostly terra rossa which is on the slightly alkaline side. It can be found from full sun in exposed places to full shade. The soil is mostly moist to wet during the growing season but will dry out in summer, even bake bone hard in many places. The bulbs sit shallowly�, sometimes slightly exposed. In the wild there can be old clumps with many flowering bulbs but most of the time they are single flowering bulbs.

The reason your bulbs divide but do not flower may have to do with frost damage to the foliage in winter and a too wet and cool (for their taste) summer. This is a greedy bulb and for producing such a large and long lasting inflorescence it needs to be well fed and must be able to photosynthesize a lot. Which it cannot do with frost damage. I think a particularly warm and sheltered spot in full sun and lots of low nitrogen fertilizer should help. My purchased bulbs from Bulb d'Argence do divide slowly and do flower every year. After flowering they produce a massive bunch of foliage. Most do not get any summer water but some do which does not make a difference in my garden. They all go dormant once hot weather sets in.  They are not fussy about the soil pH, my garden soil is very fertile on the slightly acidic side. Scilla peruviana is even able to produce bulbils along the roots which I sometimes use for propagation with selected forms but in general I prefer seed.

Hope that helps,

Algarve, Portugal
350m elevation, frost free
Mediterranean Climate


Cool and moist summers resulting in proliferation and no flowering is the reason that all of mine are getting redistributed.

Martin Bohnet

I've had 3 flowering seasons for my peruvianas outside in the garden now in southern Germany and can't report frost damage (most extreme was "just" -10.6 °C, with the number of nights per winter below -8°C countable on one hand) - of course they are NOT half-exposed here, but about 10 cm deep - until now I haven't seen a decline in flowering (the opposite, in fact), so I guess the necessity to be met is the hot summer - this year we had 3 months of average daily heights around 30°C, with peaks reaching 38°C - dormancy was very short though, the old leaves had barely dried off when the new came.
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)


Hi, I just can't help popping in the subject...

I was marveled when I discovered that this plant grew in my country, it just seem impossible to have such a showy plant! But it does grow here (well, the nearest populations are about 500 km to the SW of where I live).

Anyway, for some this plant does not belong in Scilla but in a distinct genus, Oncostema (Loncomelos, Caloscilla, etc, have also been proposed but have no priority). I tend to agree on that, the inflorescence is very different to that of true Scilla (remember to split also Prospero, Barnardia, Pseudoprospero, Hyacinthoides...).

But my point is this: there are OTHER species wich have been in turn splitted from "peruviana": sicula and dimartinoi are the "most" known. They have dirty white or bluish-white flowers, ciliated leaf margins, and live in far drier habitats, even quite barren land as on the tiny Pantelleria island, Malta and Southern Sicily. I have got some bulbs and they are less vigorous, more rot prone, and need extra drainage. 

Besides that, there are a number of 'varieties' which have been recognised for peruviana sensu stricto, such as ifniensis, gattefossei (endemic in Morocco as far as I know), elongata (with pedicels growing up to 20 cm when the fruit is ripening), etc. 

I have seedlings of ifniensis and gattefossei and again the seedlings are smaller and less vigorous than true peruviana. Seedlings of the same age from Uli's seed are double in size. I got some seeds from plants originating in Melilla (a piece of land ruled/owned by Spain in North Africa) and the seedlings are tiny as well. I have not succeeded in getting images of the flowers there.

Does anyone have these plants in adult state? I think Angelo Porcelli does, but he does not visit the forum...


Carlos Jiménez
Valencia, Spain, zone 10
Dry Thermomediterranean, 450 mm