Calochortus icon Cultivation of Mariposa Catalina lilies


Please do NOT dig up wild bulbs to start cultivating this or any other plant. That is one way species can be driven to extinction. That is not just a theoretical possibility. Collection for private gardens or to acquire pets has caused extinction in bulbs, orchids, parrots, and the list could go on. Please don't do it, and don't buy from people who might be doing it. The links page lists an environmentally responsible grower.



Mainly by seed, which is said to sprout easily, although that has not been my experience. The recommendation is to broadcast the seed where the plants will be growing. Seed is sown on the surface or lightly covered. The plants require sandy, very freely draining soil. They do not like to have their roots disturbed and so, ideally, should not be moved from pot to pot. High light levels should be available to avoid legginess, but heat over approx. 85F is not good, so the area needs good ventilation.

It takes 4-5 years for a plant to flower from seed.

Bulbs may divide after flowering, or form bulblets at the base, which can be used for vegetative propagation. They are planted approximately 3-4 inches deep in sandy, very well-drained soil in cool, well-ventilated areas. Some mariposa lilies also form bulbils at the base of the leaves, but I have not seen these in C. catalinae.



In the southern California coastal chaparral that is their natural habitat, temperatures are generally between 50-80F year-round, although spikes to 100F and down to slight freezing do occur. Rainfall is during winter and spring, summers are dry. The plants therfore should be watered sparingly during their spring growing and flowering season. Catalina mariposa lilies suffer much more from over-watering than under-watering. Once they go dormant (the foliage dies back) watering should stop. Dormant bulbs should not be moved from their pots or growing area. They will tolerate some frost when dormant, but not in combination with wet.



This species has no obvious diseases in its native habitat, although the immature fruit seems to be a favorite food of some animal, probably a local rodent. Since Catalina mariposas prefer cool, dry, sunny areas, they can be expected to succumb easily to molds and fungi under darker, wetter conditions.

The Royal Horticultural Society's gardening encyclopedia mentions that the genus is susceptible to tulip-breaking polyvirus.


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