Hymenocallis/Ismene culture

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:39:49 PDT
I've been asked to make some comments about how I grow my

For the most part, I grow these using what in the past was widely understood
as "gladiolus culture". This means digging them at the end of the outdoor
growing season, shaking off the soil, storing the big bulbs dry and
room-temperature-warm throughout the winter and spring, and then planting
them out into the ground about the time you would plant out tomatoes. 

After the bulbs are dry, any remaining soil is removed. The bulbs are then
stored in the open air indoors for several weeks to allow them to dry out
even more. The roots should remain plump and pliable during this storage.
Sometime during the winter holidays I move the bulbs into plastic bags if I
have not done it already. 

The bulbs are big and they come out of the ground with massive root systems;
and since they are both easily grown in our climate and prolific, you soon
have a real heap of them. 

This business of digging the bulbs yearly is a real nuisance, but it's worth

I've tried growing them in pots and big tubs. The pot grown plants are
obviously not at their best, and the tubs are too heavy.

If planted right near the house wall, these plants will survive the winters
outside here. But such plants do not bloom dependably. 

These plants are so easily grown in our climate that it came as a surprise
to hear that that is not so in all areas. 

One other thing: as mentioned above, they are prolific and you soon
accumulate lots of bulbs. Put this to advantage: they do not all have to be
planted at once. Stagger the plantings. They come into bloom as soon as two
to three weeks after being planted when planted late. This year, the space
for the Hymenocallis/Ismene was tied up earlier in the year and I did not
get around to planting them until early July. In some years I've planted
them as early as mid April. 

I grow the usual ones here: 'Advance', x festalis, x festalis 'Zwanenberg'
and 'Sulphur Queen'. In the past I had H. longipetala (Elisena): this is a
lot like x festalis but with a smaller "cup" to the flower - and thus more
spidery and perhaps a bit less showy. It responded well to the same
treatment here. 

If I had a place in the country, I would have these by the hundreds, planted
at intervals through the spring and early summer weeks. The inflorescence,
although not long-lived, makes wonderful cut flowers. And the scent...

Great plants, easily grown...more, please!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where garden glads are in
full bloom in many local gardens. 

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