All About Scilla Madeirensis

Your Guide to Planning, Planting, and Growing Scilla Maderiensis

Scilla madeirensis is a rare species of hyacinth that grows on the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal. Until recently, there were only two ways to see this wonderful plant in flower: search for it on the rocky cliffs of Madeira or catch it in bloom at one of the few botanical gardens that have it in their collection.

Now Scilla madeirensis bulbs are being commercially propagated, so for the first time ever, these bulbs are available to the public. This is good news for gardeners who are looking for an interesting new bulb to grow indoors during late fall and early winter.

Scilla madeirensis is exotic in every way -- starting with the bulbs, which are dark purple! They are similar in size and shape to an amaryllis bulb and are grown in much the same way. Like amaryllis, Scilla madeirensis is a tropical plant and only hardy to zones 9-10In most parts of the country, it will need to be grown indoors or in a cool greenhouse.

How to Plant

Plant the bulb in early fall, when daytime temperatures have cooled down to 50-60°F. Choose a pot that will comfortably accomodate the bulb, leaving at least an inch of clearance on all sides and at least 4" under the bulb for the roots. Put several inches of moist, high quality potting soil or growing mix into the pot and then settle the bulb on top. Fill in around the bulb, keeping the neck and shoulders of the bulb above the soil -- just as with an amaryllis. Water to settle in the bulb and then water sparingly, keeping the soil barely moist. Put the pot in bright, indirect light.

It usually takes about a month for the bulb to come out of dormancy. The first thing you will see is a fat green sprout, very similar to the sprout from a standard hyacinth bulb. Within a couple weeks the spike will have reached 12" tall and the sparkling, lavender-blue florets will start to open. While it's in bloom, keep the plant out of direct sunlight and in a relatively cool room (65°F) to extend the show.

After flowering, treat the bulb as you would an amaryllis. Cut off the flower stalk and continue watering sparingly. Keep the pot in bright, indirect light. The leaves will usually persist into early spring and then wither away as the bulb enters dormancy. Store the dormant bulb in a cool, dark, dry place until autumn, when you can repot it in moist soil and start again. Over time, the original bulb may produce daughter bulbs on the side. It's best to let the bulbs stay together in a clump, as this will give you a more dramatic display of blooms.