Peruvian squill

Peruvian squill

The Mediterranean bulbous plants: The Peruvian Scilla

Despite the name, this species is widespread in nature on the coasts of the Mediterranean; also in Italy it is easily found in the coastal areas of the southern and central regions. The Peruvian Scilla was baptized, as the first known and cataloged samples of this bulbous were brought to England by a ship called “Peru”; it is easy to understand the misunderstanding of those who asked: "where does this bulb come from?", who heard the answer "from Peru".

It should therefore perhaps be called Mediterranean Scylla, but by now the name has been attributed; in Italy it is commonly called Scilla maggiore, while in Anglo-Saxon countries it is called Peruvian lily, or even Cuban lily. It is a perennial bulbous, with particular development: usually it begins to develop the large ribbon-like leaves already in autumn, and continues until spring; in April or May thick stems rise from the large clump of fleshy leaves, bearing a large umbrella-like inflorescence, whose flowers, usually blue, bloom in succession. At the end of flowering, the umbrella has become a large cone, which can carry up to two hundred flowers, followed by fertile seeds. The flowers bloom in all shades of blue, from sky blue to almost purple blue; there are also varieties with completely white flowers. Flowering takes almost a month to complete; with the arrival of summer heat, in June or July, the plant tends to enter vegetative rest, and to lose its aerial part, in order to counteract the dry heat of the Mediterranean regions. When the leaves dry naturally, we can detach them from the plant and stop treating it completely; it will resume germinating when the fresh air arrives, in September or October.

Cultivating the Scilla

These bulbous plants are easy to grow, and are particularly suitable for low maintenance gardens; in particular, they turn out to be much more floriferous if left undisturbed for years, while repotting, division of the bulbils, working the soil, tend to disadvantage the production of flowers. They are planted in autumn, in a sunny position, or even in partial shade, but where the plant can enjoy at least a few hours a day of direct, very hot and scorching sun. In areas with very cold winters, it is advisable to place the bulbs near the house, in a flowerbed facing south or east, so that the sun warms the ground even in the middle of winter. Generally they can bear temperatures a few degrees below zero; to prevent the bulb from suffering, we tend to plant it a little deeper, where winter temperatures are very low. In the areas of origin of the plant, however, the bulb is simply placed with the top outside the ground, or at most a couple of centimeters underground. Watering is provided only in spring, and only if the climate is particularly dry; these bulbous plants are in fact very resistant to drought, and in general, once planted and well developed, they tend to need very little care, being satisfied almost only with the water provided by the weather. Sometimes it happens that we have to water the scylla already in autumn, as soon as they sprout, although usually, at this time of the year, the rains help us a lot. It is essential to place the bulbs in a very well-drained soil, which makes the water flow well, especially during the cold months. If we live in an area with a decidedly harsh and cold winter climate, we can think of growing the plant in pot, in order to move it to a cold greenhouse during the cold season; or we can simply cover the clump of leaves with agritessuto, so that the temperature near the plant is never too rigid.

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Propagate the squill

There Peruvian squill it tends to produce a large number of fertile flowers, given the enormous inflorescences; these seeds are sown in autumn, in a place sheltered from the cold, bright and cool. A good soil is used, mixed with a little sand, in order to obtain a very porous compound, which tends to make the water slip away. The seedbed should be sheltered from the cold and watered very regularly as soon as it tends to dry out. The varieties available in the nursery are generally cultivar or hybrid varieties, for this reason it will be difficult for us to know the color of the flowers that we will obtain from the specimens obtained from seed; we will probably get many plants with light blue flowers, a few with very dark flowers, a good quantity with blue flowers, and very few white (or even none). The bulbs, if left in a suitably large and well-cultivated bed, tend to produce small bulbils around to the mother bulb, and to produce thin stolons at ground level, at the end of which new specimens of the plant are produced. If left undisturbed for years, a single bulb can produce a large colony of plants, a clump of leaves and flowers. We can, even every year, remove the small plants that originated at the end of the stolons, and move them where we want; as for the bulbils instead, it is advisable to move them rarely, every 5-7 years, in order to leave the mother plant undisturbed for as long as possible, because the scylla do not like to be moved, explanted and replanted, which very often leaves them without flowers for one or two growing seasons.

Grow a squill in pots

Even if we live in an area with a harsh winter climate, it is not advisable to grow these plants in pots; this is because it is necessary to guarantee the plants a very large pot, where they can remain undisturbed for at least three or four years. It is therefore a very large container, which we will hardly be able to move when the cold arrives. A very large pot is needed because plants naturally tend to propagate, and within a couple of years a pot would already become overcrowded; but if we go to dig up the bulb to remove bulbils and small plants, we will take away the joy of the next year's flowering. It therefore becomes uninteresting to cultivate a plant that will bloom "intermittently". However, if we have a very large pot, which we can place near the house, facing south, south-east, perhaps protected by the pitch of the roof; then we can think of placing the plant in this container, where it will not even need to be covered during the cold months, as the walls of the house and the roof will prevent it from being exposed to cold and bad weather.

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