Advice On Growing Calochortus sp.

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Mikkelsen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-04
Advice On Growing Calochortus sp.

In venturing into new genus / species of fabulous plants, I am needing information on the Calochortus genus. I live in Utah, USA, where the state flower is Calochortus nuttalli. I'd really like to grow any Calochortus since I haven't seen any that are distasteful ;) I generally grow my alpines in troughs but we do have a dry garden as well. Amendind the soil to fit the needs of the plant would not be difficult at all.

I'm rather optimistic asking in the NARGS Forum about an easy specie(s) to start with either by seed or by bulb. Any info would be greatly appreciated!



Booker's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-30

Hi James,I can only point you in the direction of this fabulous monograph ...

Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus On the moors in Lancashire, U.K. Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!

Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I don't know a thing about Calochortus spp., but I did find this.

Scanned from the 1990 winter Buletin of the American Rock Garden Society (the NARGS Rock Garden Quarterly predecessor):

"Calochortus: Why Not Try Them?"  by Boyd Kline

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

This completes the article:

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Peter George
Title: Guest
Joined: 2009-09-03

Panayoti Kelaidis posted some information on Calochortus, with some fine photos. Just enter 'calochortus' in the search box above, and you'll be taken to his posts.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-07-11
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

The PBS site is always informative.  Thanks, (Mark?) Mazer.

And welcome to the Forum!

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Kelaidis's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03

I've been absent from the Forum for quite a while (for many reasons) and am about to be on vacation for a few weeks--and don't know how much computer access I may have--BUT, I cannot resist sharing about Calochortus: I have had pretty wonderful success the last six or seven years: I scattered seed of Calochortus gunnisonii, and literally dozens started to bloom only a few years out, and these now are self sowing. I have added hundreds of bulbs grown by the Dutch (they have seven or so strains in commerce): they are very reasonable if you shop around. I have probably planted over a thousand so far, and these too are self sowing. I have been so pleased with the success (many mariposas have clumped up over the last few years, producing dozens of blooms from a single clump) and they last most of the month of June. I am growing them in a sandy loam (basically my native soil) which is very deep and bakes hard in summer. I do water them in spring if we get insufficient snow or rain (not needed the last few years). I watered them this autumn because we have had essentially no rain since June and the soil was rock hard when I planted nearly 20 new kinds I got from Telos and Western Native bulbs: I have over 25 taxa. The Dutch ones must be seed grown because they are extremely variable. When they are in bloom I throw several parties, and visitors are very envious. You should have great success with these in Utah!

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.

Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-03-01

Bought a mix from McLure & Zimmerman last fall.  Bulbs were very small; but most have survived and half or more will bloom this year.

Planted in a fairly barren sand bed 15 to 20 inches over clay soil.  Winter had a good snow cover.  This is a cactus area of the garden that I won't water, though water is never a problem for long here

Next year will be a test, though I have one (possibly c.v. Cupido) from {don't recall) that is a year older and has increased and flowered last year and this.

Will sow seeds though, at least, some of the tulips definitely don't need and assistance there--having come up like onions this spring.

The Timber Press book indicates that there are a fair number of species that naturally have some summer moisture.

Charles Swanson NE Massachusetts USA

NE Massachusetts (New England) USA  zone 6 (5B to 6B)

gardens visited, photographs:

Barstow's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-08-27

I started seed of 6 species in 2006:  Calochortus barbatus, C. longebarbatus, C. luteus, C. subalpinus, C. vestae and C. striatus and planted the seedlings in two places - on a bed outside with good drainage (covering the plants with a slate in winter to keep relatively dry) and in my greenhouse (no winter moisture apart from what comes up from below). If I haven't mixed things up, one of those outside is still alive (C. longebarbatus) and one in the greenhouse (C. striatus). Good to have confirmed above that it can take 5-7 years to flower as they have grown slowly. This is an area where  rainfall can be expected all summer (several days in a row). Are my survivors species that might be expected to tolerate wet summers?

Stephen Barstow Malvik, Norway 63.4N Age: Lower end of the 20-25,000 day range

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Stephen, I don't know enough about these to offer much help, except to say that about 6-7 years ago I bought a few young bulbs of Calochortus vestae from Jane McGary, opting to try that species as it was rumored to be tolerant of more moisture and shade than many of the others; not sure how true that it.  Each year the foliage gets larger, in fact they looked so good this spring I thought they might finally flower, but no such luck.  Here's the foliage near the end of April 2011... mice succulent leaves.

Mark McDonough Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5 antennaria at  


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