Scilla peruviana, also called Portuguese squill, is a spring-blooming bulb with striking, lavender-blue flowers. The flowerheads can be the size of a softball, with star-like florets that open gradually over a period of 3 weeks or more. The plants have long, strappy leaves and grow 12-20” tall, with flowers on 6-12” stems.
This bulb is ideal for warm climates where growing conditions are similar to the Mediterranean region where Scilla peruviana grows wild. If they get enough moisture, the plants will retain their foliage almost year-round.
In areas with dry summers, the bulbs will go dormant in midsummer and sprout leaves again in the fall. Scilla peruviana’s foliage will tolerate temperatures as low as 28°F and the bulbs are perennial in zones 7-10 (7 with winter protection).
Scilla peruviana should be grown in well-drained soil that has a sandy or gritty texture. The bulbs will not tolerate soil that is dense and heavy, overly moist or too rich. Full sun is best for flowering, but the plants will also grow in partial shade.
Bloom time is late spring to early summer. The plants need moisture before, during and right after flowering. During the summer months, the soil should stay as dry as possible. The bulbs usually lose their foliage for a few months during the summer and then sprout new foliage in the fall. These leaves will persist through winter and spring as long as air temperatures don’t drop much below freezing.
In the wild, the bulbs grow at or just above the soil surface. To mimic these conditions, plant the bulbs shallowly so the very tip of the bulb is right at the soil surface. The bulbs should be spaced about 8 to 10” apart.
In colder areas, Scilla peruviana may be grown in containers. Plant the bulbs shallowly and fertilize before and immediately after flowering. Once the foliage fades, stop watering and put the pot in a protected area where it won’t get too much rain. Bring the container indoors in the fall to protect the bulbs from cold.
As with other bulbs, it’s best to remove the flowers after they fade. Cut the stems back close to the bottom of the plant. Then allow the foliage to continue growing until it fades in midsummer.
Over time, Scilla peruviana bulbs will multiply and form large clumps. If flowering gradually decreases, dig and divide the bulbs in early summer to give them more room.