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.
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.