Californian Hyacinth – Brodiaea

Known as the Californian Hyacinth the brodiaeas are exquisite little plants, in flower from the end of May until mid-July. The blooms are carried on sturdy stems, up to half a dozen gentian-like flowers appearing on the top of each stem. They are not quite completely hardy and should be given a mulch in early December and over the clumps should be placed a quantity of weathered ash. There are, however, exceptions to the rule of hardiness.

Brodiaea coccinea is perfectly able to withstand a severe winter in a well-drained soil, and B. unifiora, the Tritelia of our gardens, is completely hardy. All of them may be grown outdoors unprotected in the south and West Country where I have grown them to perfection in a sandy, well-drained soil, but for the more northerly garden they should be given winter protection except for the two species mentioned. Being natives of California they must be given a sunny position and a soil which will warm up quickly in early summer.

Californian Hyacinth - Brodiaea

To achieve this, plenty of sand, shingle and leaf mould should be well worked into the soil before planting takes place in September. Some thoroughly rotted manure they enjoy too, for they are plants which should not be disturbed when once planted. I find that a mixture of dry poultry manure, peat and some strawy farmyard manure, thoroughly mixed and to which some loam and coarse sand has been added will prove ideal if allowed to remain in a heap for two months before added to the soil.

Where the bulbs are being grown in grass or in the shrub border, the same compost should be placed into each square foot of ground where the bulbs are to be set. But first see that the ground is clear of all perennial weeds. Then plant them 4 in. deep, placing some sand around each bulb when in position. They should be planted 4 in. apart and in groups of four bulbs. Several varieties are ideal for the rockery and are at their best when planted round stones with a large proportion of shingle around the bulbs and above them for winter protection.


Brodiaea Bridgesi. Taller than the other species, growing to a height of nearly 2 ft. and producing its pale mauve flowers throughout June.

B. coccinea. This in my own humble opinion is one of the most outstanding plants in any garden. The brilliant red blooms are attractively tipped with green, making a most striking display throughout June and July. The flowers are carried on 12-in stems.

B. crocea. This is a variety well suited to the rock garden for the dainty yellow flowers are carried on only 6-in. stems and borne in great profusion during May and early June.

B. grand:flora. Dwarf of habit and of an enchanting sky-blue colour, this species produces its bloom in profusion throughout June.

B. laxa. One of the taller-growing Brodiaeas and a most valuable cut flower. In fact, so inexpensive are the bulbs that they could well be planted for commercial cut-flower production with a view to testing the market for this flower. The tubular blooms are of the richest purple colour.

B. mull:flora. Bears umbels of deep mauve flowers in profusion. Of dwarf habit and at its loveliest throughout July.

B. peduncularis. Rather less hardy than the others but should be planted for its violet and white flowers which are produced on 2-in. stems and throughout midsummer.

B. Tubergeni. Raised from a peduncularis-laxa cross, this new introduction produces flowers of the palest porcelain blue which appear in profusion in almost all soils. The bulbs of each species should all be tried and the most satisfactory grown in quantity.

If required for pot culture, several of the species give good results in this way, the best being B. multiflora, B. grandiflora and B. crocea. They should be potted during November, given cold-frame protection and will come into bloom late in spring if taken into a warm greenhouse or the home during the early new year.

More Info

  • Brodiaea or Brevoortia Coccinea is also known as the Crimson Satin Flower and the Californian Fire-cracker. Excellent grown in pots in which they do best, the bulbs will also flower well in the open, if given a sheltered, warm place and a well-drained soil.
  • In late spring and early summer the rather drooping, scarlet-crimson flowers, tipped green, appear on 18- to 24-in. Stems.
  • Very different is Brodiaea uniflora, often known as Milla or tritelia uniflora. This grows only 6 in. high, each very pale lavender petal having a faint line down the centre. These scented flowers last well, and the grassy foliage may also be used. Plant in October.


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