The Peruvian Daffodil

Ismene or Peruvian Daffodil

The Peruvian daffodil is a very striking plant in any garden. The large white blossoms are very fragrant as well as attractive. The foliage is lustrous throughout the growing season, giving real possibilities for its use as a border accent.

The plant is of the family Hymenocallis and is also known as spider lily, basket flower, Pancratium calathinum and Ismene calathina.

With a better understanding of the growth requirements of this plant it should be more popular in Northern gardens. The usual complaint is that it won’t blossom the second year.

With plenty of water and feeding during the growing season and a warm dry resting period during the winter, we have had no trouble in obtaining bloom. In fact, we have had no trouble in growing the super or premium bulb sizes with the rewards of larger flower clusters and larger plants for use as accent in borders.

In our garden the plants have grown well in full or partial sun, heavy or light soil, indoors as well as outdoors. The ground should not be allowed to dry out or become soggy. Water but do not soak.

All-purpose garden fertilizer applied at the beginning and middle of the growing season is effective. After the growing season is ended by frost, remove the bulbs and store in a warm place at least over 60 degrees.

If the ground is permitted to dry out during a dry spell the bulbs tend to develop internal divisions. If high nitrogen fertilizers are used without plenty of water, the foliage tends to grow at the expense of the bulb.

If it receives all-purpose garden fertilizer and plenty of water the foliage and bulb will keep growing larger year after year.

Digging Bulbs

When frost ends the growing season, the bulbs should be removed carefully from the ground, in order not to break off the heavy roots where they join the bulb.

A new bulblet probably will start at the base of the bulb where the root was broken off. This is one means of obtaining additional bulbs but at the expense of maximum main bulb growth.

Bulb divisions should not be separated until only a thin crust connects the two parts at the root line. The seed balls, after they separate naturally from the flower stems, may be planted and will soon sprout new plants.

The foliage is erect and lustrous for the full growing season. The Peruvian daffodil is an excellent tonic for tired borders. The root system is deep so that there is no competition with shallow rooted annuals.

The plants are effective in borders, used individually or in groups of three or more. The blossom clusters of plants in groups are very striking and very fragrant.

The flowers turn toward the direction of greatest light. This should be considered in placing the plants. In front of buildings or shrubbery, the flowers will usually open away from the background.

Bulbs are easily made to bloom indoors during the winter. In January or February they may be potted up. Take care to work the earth under the bulb and between the roots.

Cover the bulb completely. The bulb should be watered lightly until growth starts. The bulb seems to need soil humidity completely around it to trigger blossom growth.

A bulb two inches in diameter or larger will usually bloom. The number of blossoms on a flower stem depends on bulb size.

A two-inch bulb usually bears three blossoms on a single stem; a 3 and 1/2-inch bulb will have as many as eight to ten on a single stem. The larger bulbs will often send up more than one flower stem with a corresponding increase in bloom.

The larger bulbs indoors send up flower stems at an unbelievable rate of growth. After blooming indoors the plant should be kept watered and growing until it can be placed in the garden.

Bulbs may be planted in the garden during the late spring when there is no longer danger of frost. The plants do not appear sensitive to cold as long as there is no frost or freeze.

The bulb should be planted so the top is three to four inches below the ground surface. Plants that bloomed during the winter will not bloom again the following summer.

Few other plants offer such beauty and fragrance of blossom with continued beauty of foliage throughout the growing season.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

zwark April 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I have some Peruvian Daffodils that are winter hardy. I live in southern Illinois in a zone 6a area. Everything I’ve read about PD’s say I have to dig them up in the fall. I have some of the type that does require digging and storing for the winter but was wondering about the ones that I leave in the ground. It commonly gets well below freezing in my area and was hoping to find out what type of PD’s I actually do have. Thanks for any info you can give me.

admin April 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Hard to say which type… also it is possible that the type has become sort of an “heirloom” type which has survived in the area. Do you have pictures of the different blooms?

Have you read the Q&A’s here?


DaylilyDawn May 18, 2012 at 8:19 am

Recently I rescued a crinum that had been growing in a field that the school board owns. The school board decide to make a road into the field prior to storing portables in it. One of the heavy equipment operators dug up the entire clump and dropped it over the fence that runs along the driveway to the boys and girls club of Lakeland. The same night I was walking our two long haired dachshunds, I saw that clump lying there. I picked it up and took it home and planted it the next day. It suffered a little freeze damage when we had a freeze that only lasted a few hours . Yesterday one of the bulbs(there were 8 bulbs, 4 loose ones and 4 connected in a mini clump) bloomed and it was not a crinum but a hymenocallis.I know that the clump bloomed as a crinum when it was in the field because I would walk past it every time we took the dogs down there for a walk. I think someone threw some hymenocallis seeds near that crinum and they grew into the clump of crinum. I am not unhappy with it but pleasantly surprised. I took a photo of it blooming and could send it to you.

admin May 22, 2012 at 10:19 am

Great Find! Those are the kind of plants which handle weather extremes… they survived with no care. a Picture would be great.

DaylilyDawn May 24, 2012 at 7:57 am

So far all of the bulbs I rescued are turning out to be hymenocallis, not crinums. I just would like to find a crinum that smells like a lily of the valley with lemon overtones. I grew up in a house that had one of the crinums that smelled like that, never knew what it was until later after computers were available, that house is long gone and so are the plants that were there.