Mariposa season

Boyce Tankersley
Fri, 01 Jul 2011 12:54:08 PDT

Thank you very much!

Just returned from a trip home to southern New Mexico to assist with caring
for my grandmother.  Might try to send some to relatives still living in the
area - they definitely don't have a problem supplying a lot of sunlight or
completely dry conditions in the summer.

Boyce Tankersley, now returned to a relatively cool and wet Chicago from a
very hot and dry Las Cruces, NM.

On Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 4:15 PM, Michael Mace <>wrote:

> Boyce asked:
> >> How difficult are they in containers?
> I would like to invite other growers to chime in, but here's my take:
> Calochortus range from the Canadian border to Mexico, and from California
> to
> Colorado.  So you can find species for a variety of climates.  But most of
> them are from California, and those are what I'd call particular but not
> difficult.  In other words, if you give them the conditions they want, they
> are easy to grow in containers.  But if you don't get the conditions right,
> they can be unforgiving.
> In general, most California-growing Calochortus will take the same
> conditions as winter bulbs from places like South Africa and Chile.  If you
> grow winter-growing species bulbs like Moraea, Romulea, and Gladiolus, you
> can probably grow Calochortus.  But you need to use deep pots and pay
> special attention to keeping them *totally* dry in summer.
> Specifically, they want:
> --Deep containers.  You can grow them successfully in standard 8-inch / 20
> cm pots (I've done it), but within a couple of years they dive deep in the
> pots.  If they hit the bottom of the pot, they run out of growing room and
> will die the next year.  People who dug them in the wild (I haven't done
> it)
> wrote of finding a long series of shed bulb cases underground, each one
> deeper than the one before.
> --Summer dryness.  Some Calochortus species grow in areas that get a bit of
> summer moisture, but the big Mariposas I wrote about are very intolerant of
> any summer moisture.  In the UK, you hear about growers leaving the pots
> out
> in the sun, under glass, to "cook" all summer.  If you try that in
> California, where the sun is a lot hotter, you literally will cook the
> bulbs.  Here you leave them in the shade and let them stay ruthlessly dry,
> with absolutely no rain or sprinkling from a hose, from dormancy until the
> rains start (late October/early November).
> --Good light and moisture in winter.  Their light and water needs are very
> similar to mediterranean-climate bulbs.  They need a well-drained mix (I
> use
> 50-50 peat and sand, with some inorganic bulb fertilizer).  Do not skip the
> fertilizer, and do not use organic products like chicken manure as they
> encourage rot.  As long as drainage is good they like a lot of moisture
> when
> in growth.  They also like a lot of sun, which I suspect may be a challenge
> in some winter climates.
> --Cool conditions, but not frozen.  Again, this is similar to other
> mediterranean bulbs.  The ones I grow are very hardy to around 20F, but do
> not appreciate long periods of freezing.  On the other hand, they seem
> happiest with winter coolness and good air circulation.  Seedlings will
> damp
> off if they are too humid/warm.  I suspect that in a heated greenhouse
> geared to tropicals you'd get rot.
> Some very beautiful Calochortus species come from the Great Basin area and
> are adapted to extreme winter cold.  These grow like some Asian Tulips --
> they want to be cold and dry in winter, and then in spring will grow very
> quickly, blooming in early summer before they go dormant.  I can't grow
> them
> easily because I don't have enough winter cold, but for someone in a very
> cold winter climate they might actually be easier.
> The now-defunct Calochortus Society collected a huge amount of data on
> growing these things. They gave permission to reprint their findings, and
> you can read them on the PBS wiki here:
> Hope that helps.
> Mike
> San Jose, CA
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