The genus Camassia contains about six species and belongs to the subfamily of the agave family. The natural range of the prairie lily is in North America, where it grows in moist meadows at altitudes of up to 2400 m. Depending on the species, blue, white to cream-colored or violet flowers form in spring, which are in dozens on an upright, racemose flower stalk. If the external conditions are right, some species can grow up to one meter in height. Unlike some other bulbs, the prairie lily is hardy. Therefore, it can remain outdoors all year round.


  • botanischer Name: Camassia
  • Genus in the subfamily of the agave family (Agavoideae)
  • Plant family: Asparagus family (Asparagaceae)
  • perennial herbaceous plant
  • Growth height: 30 to 80 cm
  • Origin: North America
  • Leaves: long and narrow (from a basal rosette)
  • Flowers: racemose inflorescences, dozens of individual flowers (star-shaped)
  • Flower Color: White, very light or very dark shades of blue to violet
  • Flowering time: April to May
  • Fruit: capsules

location & soilc

A prairie lily likes it sunny, but also tolerates light penumbra. Its grape-like inflorescences are somewhat sensitive to strong weather influences, as the flowers are rather loose on the stem. A location that is protected from heavy rain and gusts of wind is therefore ideal. In this way, the Camassia can convince with its flowers for weeks. Places in the garden that are too shady restrict the growth and blooming splendor of the distinctive onion, because in this case the plant puts all its energy into the leaves, but not into the formation of the flower.

  • Light requirements: sunny or very light penumbra
  • suitable for beds, perennial beds and container planting
  • protected from heavy rain and wind
  • warm
Tip: The prairie lily is particularly impressive when it is planted en masse over a large area. With yellow marsh marigolds as a complementary colour, it is particularly beautiful to look at on the banks of a pond.


Prairie lilies feel most comfortable in a sunny location where the soil is nutrient-rich and always fresh to slightly moist. It is therefore ideally suited as a companion to a garden pond. But the bulbous plant also tolerates other locations that are not too dry and shady, so that the Camassia blooms willingly.

  • fresh to moist
  • well permeable to water and air
  • lehmig-sandig, fumes
  • improved sandy soil
  • Clay or loess soil
  • solid clay soil improved with hummus
  • pH: 4.5 to 6.5
  • little tolerant of dry or oxygen-poor soils


In spring, the prairie lily can alternatively be bought as a bulb or as a pre-cultivated plant in gardening shops. Depending on which variant you choose, the planting or mating time is slightly different. Plants are planted in the bed after the last late frosts in spring, the bulbs can be planted in the ground during the entire dormant period.

  • Planting distance: 20 cm
  • Plants per m³: 10 to 12
  • do not plant deeper than before

stick onions

As a rule, prairie lilies are planted as bulbs in the prepared soil in the fall. In principle, this is possible throughout the winter as long as the ground is frost-free. Dig the bed thoroughly and remove all old roots, stones and weeds. Very heavy loam or clay soil should be improved in advance with some humus and sand, very sandy soil with compost or humus.

  • Planting depth: about 10 cm (double bulb depth)
  • pay attention to the planting direction
  • The tip of the onion points upwards
  • Press the soil lightly around the onion
  • pour on

watering and fertilizing

During the growth period, the prairie lily needs an evenly moist substrate that must not dry out for a long time. However, the beautiful flowering plant does not tolerate waterlogging. As soon as the first flowers appear, the Camassia needs to be watered a little less. When the plants shed their leaves in late summer or fall, watering will stop altogether. At this time of year the plant goes into hibernation and the bulb would rot if there was too much water.


In a reasonably humus-rich soil, the prairie lily rarely needs to be supplied with additional nutrients. If you produce your own compost, you can mix some of it under the ground in autumn or spring. Alternatively, horn shavings or a little slow-release vegetable fertilizer are also perfect for providing the onion plant with the necessary nutrients. For onion plants, avoid fertilizers with a very high nitrogen content. An oversupply of this nutrient leads to increased leaf formation.

To cut

In overgrown gardens, the prairie lily does not need to be pruned at all for it to reliably self-seed. If uncontrolled spread is not desired, faded stems must be removed. Only when the leaves are completely dry can they be cut. If the leaves are still green in late summer, which is more often the case in the shade than in the sun, the plant is still gathering strength in the bulb. Removing the leaves prematurely therefore greatly weakens the storage of nutrients, so that in extreme cases the bulb is not able to sprout again in the spring.


There are two easy ways to propagate Camassia. The vegetative propagation takes place via daughter bulbs, which grow laterally out of the mother bulb. However, the prairie lily can also be reliably cultivated from seeds, which form in the triangular capsules after flowering.

spring onions

If you carefully dig up the onion in autumn after a few years, small onions may already have formed on the main onion. These can be carefully broken off and immediately planted elsewhere in the garden. These offspring are identical to the mother plant. Spring onions only form leaves and no flowers in the first two years.


Many of the Camassia varieties propagate easily from seed, making them perfect for naturalising in a natural garden. However, the fine seeds are scattered all over the garden by the wind, so the gardener will be in for a surprise next year, where the pretty flowering plant has found a place to grow everywhere. In order for the seeds to germinate, they must first be subjected to a cold period.

Pretreatment (stratification)

The term “stratification” means that the seed must be subjected to a special treatment to encourage germination. Many plant species native to temperate and cold temperate climates require low temperatures before they germinate. This makes sense, because it ensures that the seeds do not germinate until after the winter. In this cool, moist phase, substances are formed in the seed that stimulate germination. Therefore, the seeds of these so-called cold germs are usually sown outdoors in autumn or very early spring. Alternatively, they can also be sown in seed pots from October and spend the winter outdoors. If you want to prefer the prairie lily on the windowsill, this cold period must be simulated.

  • Time: from about February to March
  • use fresh or dry stored seeds
  • the seeds do not need to be soaked in water
  • place in bag with damp sand
  • store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for four weeks
Note: Check the bag occasionally for seeds that have already germinated in the refrigerator. You can remove these and plant them in seed pots.


You can then sow seeds that have been stored in the refrigerator. The best time for the preculture on the windowsill is March. The young plants already have a head start over the outdoor plants, so that they can put a lot of energy into the bulbs in the first year.

  • Place seeds on moistened substrate
  • Substrate: cactus soil, potting soil, coconut fiber
  • cover lightly with sand or fine substrate
  • put in greenhouse or plastic bag
  • Temperature: 15 to 20 degrees
  • Location: bright but no direct sun
  • as soon as the first leaves form, remove the cover
  • water normally from now on
  • Keep substrate slightly moist
Note: Prairie lilies grown from seed take some time before they flower. This can only be expected after three to five years, when the plant has already formed a sufficiently large bulb in the soil.


Most prairie lilies are relatively robust, perennial and easily survive cold winters if they are protected by a layer of snow. Before the cold season, the plant withdraws completely into its underground bulb, where it stores water and nutrients to sprout again in the spring after its hibernation. In areas where it rarely snows, the gardener should provide a protective cover in winter. This can consist of a thick layer of leaves or sticks laid on the garden soil.

Special species and varieties

The most common type of prairie lily is the Camassia Leichtlinii, also known as Leichtlin’s prairie lily. Other species are also commercially available.

Camassia cusickii (Common Prairie Lily)

  • also known as prairie candle
  • lavender flower candles
  • Growth height: 50 cm
  • dark green foliage

Camassia Leichtlinii (Leichtlin’s Prairie Lily)

  • particularly long-lived variety
  • Growth height: 70 to 90 cm
  • ‘Alba’: creamy yellow flower, flowers a little later than the blue variant
  • ‘Caerulea’: blue flower
  • ‘Semiplena’: semi-double, creamy-white flowers
  • ‘Sacajawea’: white flowers, leaves with yellowish edges

Camassia quamash (Edible Prairie Lily)

  • blue flower stars
  • Growth height: 40 cm
  • ‘Orion’: short species with light blue panicles
  • ‘Blue Melody’: dark blue flowers, striking colorful striped leaves

Camassia scilloides (Eastern Prairie Lily)

  • cyan blue, wheel-shaped flowers
  • Growth height: 20 to 80 cm
  • dark green foliage

diseases and pests

Prairie lilies are not particularly susceptible to various diseases or pest infestations. Waterlogging, especially in the cold season, causes the bulb to rot and causes lasting damage to the plant.


Like many bulbous flowers, the prairie lily can be afflicted with viral diseases. These are usually recognizable by the light spots on the leaves. However, if the infestation is already far advanced, the whole plant can also wither away. Affected bulbs should be pulled out of the ground and disposed of as soon as possible. Also, renew the soil around the affected plants, as the virus also survives in the soil and can therefore be transmitted to other plants.


Voles occasionally attack the bulbs of the prairie lily. Whole plants can disappear almost overnight. In order to protect the plants, a close-meshed wire mesh is necessary when planting, which is inserted into the ground around the bulb.

onion rot

Onion rot, which is transmitted by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, usually occurs when soil conditions are too wet. When infected, leaves and flowers suddenly turn yellow and die. Get infested plants out of the ground and generously renew the substrate.

If the prairie lily finds a suitable location (sunny and humid), it can form very large clumps with hundreds of blue or white flowers growing on upright peduncles. It is very hardy, requires little maintenance and is not only very long-lived, but reliably reproduces itself without becoming invasive.

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