Camassia are not as widely grown or familiar as many spring-flowering bulbs, but they are becoming ever more popular as their qualities become better known. Camassia flower in April and May with large spikes of flowers in blue, purple or white. Commonly offered for sale are C. cusickii, quamash, and Leichtlinii. From a distance, when planted on mass, they can first be mistaken for Bluebells, see image above left. The flowers bloom from the base upwards.
The flowers are lily like, with coloured stamens and the plants are tall growing to around 1-1.3m. The bulbs originate from North America growing along-side streams and damp meadows, from which it follows Camassia will tolerate damp conditions, but not boggy conditions, and being tough will also tolerate quite a degree of summer drought. Camassia are a tough bulb tolerant of damp and dry, partial shade and pest free.
Although described as hardy H4 which is hardy in most of the UK Camassia will benefit from some winter protection by covering with a mulch, at least the first year and more so in very cold areas. Camassia are best planted where they are to remain as Camassia dislike being moved and root disturbance. That said, Camassia are easy to grow and tolerant of most conditions excluding very shady or excessively wet and boggy conditions.
Plant Camassia bulbs in the autumn, at least 10cms (4") which is about 3 times the bulbs depth on well-drained soil which does not become waterlogged. They will benefit from a good watering after planting,
Camassia will tolerate dappled shade and look ideal in a woodland setting. The leaves are slow to die down, like Alliums, do not look ideal especially after the flowers have faded, and this needs to be taken into account when planting. Bearing in mind the flowering time in May good companions are the early flowering Alliums, early flowering Geraniums and Aquilegia.
Camassia can be a less invasive alternative to Bluebells.
They make fabulous cut flowers.