Puschkinia – Puschkinia scilloides

Puschkinia are pretty flowers grown from small, hardy bulbs. They belong to the Lily family and are closely related to Chionodoxa and Scilla.

There are only two species of this plant. They were discovered in the Caucasus, where they grow wild, as they do in Asia Minor and Afghanistan. They can easily be grown as temporary house plants provided the bulbs are planted in good time and started off at a cool temperature to encourage them to make roots before top growth.

The bulbs send up clumps of narrow, dark green leaves 10-20cm (4-8in) long, and up to six tiny bell-shaped flowers lcm (½in) long hang from each slender, arching stem.

After flowering the leaves die down and the bulbs must be planted out on the patio.

One of the various names for Puschkinia scilloides is Striped Squill. It takes its name from the distinctive dark blue stripe down the centre of each of the pale blue or white petals.Puschkinia - Puschkinia scilloides

P. compacta is a more compact variety that has rather more flowers than ; P. scilloides.

Looking after your bulbs

Buy firm bulbs from a specialist nursery or bulb supplier in September. Plant them straightaway in good bulb compost in a wide, shallow bowl or pot, spacing them no more than 2cm (1 in) apart to get a good mass effect. Leave the pot in a very dark, cool place for 8 weeks for the bulbs to make roots prior to top-growth. The bulb compost, which should have been soaked and drained before planting, should only be watered again if it starts to dry out.

Keep the pot in a cool, dark place during the rooting period. The leaves should be only just showing, perhaps with flower buds obvious in their centres.

Move to bright light, but not full sun. Puschkinia will not flower successfully unless the temperature is below 13°C (55°F). Feed with a liquid fertilizer as soon as the buds start to show. Water 2 or 3 times a week while in flower.

Plant Problems

Generally, these bulbs are fairly trouble-free and will flower well if given the correct amounts of light and water.

Leaves have yellow blisters which burst and scatter a red powder. The plant has rust fungus. Treatment: Remove the damaged leaves and spray with a bordeaux mixture.

Leaves have brown spots with a pale halo around them. This indicates a smut fungus attack.

Treatment: Pick off the damaged leaves and spray with a bordeaux mixture.

Brown tips on the flowers Can be caused by too much sun, or possibly by gas fumes.

Prevention: Keep pot out of direct sunlight and away from gas appliances.

PLANT CARE

These are quite easy plants to raise and care for and, provided they are given the right amount of light and water at the right time, they will produce a lovely show of flowers.

  • Potting: It is better to plant up new bulbs each September as they rarely flower indoors for more than one season.
  • Keep just moist while roots are developing, then water moderately until plants come into flower. Water 2-3 times a week while plants are flowering.
  • Feeding: Feed weekly with liquid fertilizer from the time the buds show until flowering stops. Do not start too soon or leaves will develop at the expense of flowers.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: The bulbs need total darkness to start shooting and to encourage root development before they make leaves and flowers. Bring pot into subdued light when shoots show. Move the plants to full light when leaves are well grown, but do not place in direct sun.
  • Temperature: The plants must be kept in a cool place below 13°C (55°F) to bring them into flower.

When to buy

  • Buy bulbs in autumn from a good nursery, garden centre or bulb specialist.
  • Choose firm white bulbs of even size. Avoid undersized bulbs as they will not flower that year. Reject any brown or mushy bulbs.
  • These plants are best raised from new bulbs each year.
  • A bowl thickly planted with Puschkinia bulbs in the early autumn will produce a cloud of tiny bells in the palest blue to herald the spring.

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