All products were chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.
How to grow camassias – Camassia leichtlinii

How to grow camassias

All you need to know about growing camassias, in our Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Divide
Divide

Do not Divide in January

Do not Divide in February

Do not Divide in March

Do not Divide in April

Do not Divide in May

Do not Divide in June

Do Divide in July

Do Divide in August

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in October

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

  • Plant size

    75cm height

    10cm spread

  • Spacing

    10cm apart

  • Depth

    10cm

Camassias, also known as wild hyacinth, Indian hyacnith, quamash or camas, produce tall spires of blue, white or occasionally pink star-like flowers in late April, May and early June. Grown from bulbs that are planted in autumn, they come into their own at a time of year when many spring bulbs have finished flowering and early perennials are yet to flower.

Advertisement

Camassias hail from damp meadows and woodland edges in the Pacific Northwest of the US. They were once a food staple for native Indian tribes and were called ‘kamas’. Unlike many spring bulbs, camassias will grow in heavy, moist soils, so they’re a good choice for areas of your garden where other spring bulbs may not thrive. Completely hardy, they come back year after year. Bees love the flowers, and they’re largely untroubled by slugs and snails. They also make good cut flowers. While some varieties can reach around 90cm tall, they have sturdy stems that don’t need staking.

Camassias can be planted in borders or pots and look particularly good planted with early perennials such as polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal) or dicentra (bleeding heart). They also look wonderful against the acid yellow of euphorbia or the complementary colours of wisteria. However you plant them, plant generously, as they look best grown en masse, creating a haze of colour in a similar way to bluebells. They’re perfect for naturalising in grass and look good growing near a stream or pond and under deciduous trees. 

How to grow camassias

Plant camassia bulbs in autumn, in humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil in full sun or part shade. They’re happy in heavy clay soil and will grow in acid, neutral or alkaline soil. Allow the foliage to die back naturally after flowering and divide congested clumps in summer.

More on growing camassias:

Camassias: jump links


Where to grow camassias

Camassias growing with euphorbia and tiarella
Camassias growing with euphorbia and tiarella

Grow camassias in moist soil, in sun or part shade. They’re excellent for naturalising in grass, but you’ll need to let the leaves die down before mowing so choose a spot where you are happy to allow them to do this. Camassias can also be grown in containers, but will need to be well watered in dry periods and kept in a frost-free place over winter.


How to plant camassias

Planting camassia bulbs
Planting camassia bulbs

Plant camassia bulbs in autumn, from September to November. Use a bulb planter or a trowel to make a hole for each bulb. Plant the bulbs pointy end facing upwards, at least 10-15cm deep, or around twice the height of the bulb. Space around 10cm apart. Water the bulbs in well.

Watch Monty Don’s guide to planting camassias, in this clip from BBC Gardeners’ World:

If you’re growing camassias in pots, use a loam-based compost and a large pot. Plant as deep as you can, closer together than you would in the ground.


Caring for camassias

Camassia leichtlinii 'Sacajawea'
Camassia leichtlinii ‘Sacajawea’

After watering your bulbs in, they should get enough moisture from rainfall. You could water them in summer if there is a prolonged dry period. Be sure to water bulbs in pots in summer. 

Only cut back the foliage when it has completely yellowed and died back – this is important as the dying leaves will feed next year’s bulbs. Deadhead the flowers once they’ve faded, unless you want to save in seed, in which case leave a few spent flowers on the plant.

Camassias don’t need feeding but those growing in a border can be mulched in autumn. This will also help to protect the bulbs over winter if you live in a very cold area.

If your camassias are becoming congested and not flowering well, split the clumps in July and August and replant the bulbs further apart or in a new area.

Move bulbs in pots to a frost-free place in winter.


How to propagate camassias

Camassia bulbs
Camassia bulbs

The easiest way to propagate camassias is to split clumps of bulbs when they are dormant, in summer. Separate the clumps and replant them further apart or elsewhere in the garden. You can also remove the offsets that have formed around the main bulbs and replant them.

Alternatively, collect seed when it’s ripe in early summer (you’ll need to remember not to deadhead). Sow in a seed tray and leave to germinate in a cold frame. New plants can take up to three years to flower.


Growing camassias: problem solving

Camassias are mostly trouble-free. Poor flowering is usually due to lack of moisture in the soil, or an overcrowded clump. If it’s the latter, lift and divide the clump in summer.


Advice on buying camassias

  • Buy bulbs after August, for planting in autumn, so that you know they are freshly harvested
  • Check the height of each variety – camassias can range in height from 30cm to over 1m
  • You can buy camassia plants at the garden centre in spring but this is a very expensive way to buy them. It’s much more economical to plant bulbs in autumn. For the best range of varieties, buy from a specialist bulb supplier

Where to buy camassias online

Varieties of camassia to grow

Camassia quamash. Getty Images
Camassia quamash. Getty Images

Camassia quamash (common camassia) – a short, early flowering variety that’s excellent for naturalising in grass. It has dark, purple-blue flowers with vivid yellow stamens.
Height x Spread: 30cm x 10cm

Camassia liechtlinii – tall, loose spires of white, blue or pale pink flowers, depending on the variety. A popular choice for a border.
H x S: 90cm x 10cm

Advertisement

Camassia cusickii ‘Zwanenburg’ – a rare variety with blue petals and a paler stripe down the middle.
H x S: 75cm x 10cm