How to Grow Camassia — Camass

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Camassia bears loose or dense, terminal racemes of large, showy, star-shaped or cup-shaped blue, purple, or white flowers. Camassia grows from a bulb and does well in moist but not waterlogged soil.

Camassia is native to meadows in the Northwest. It’s a natural choice for a wildflower or meadow garden. Camassia is commonly known as camass or quamash–a name derived from Native American words for the plant. Boiled bulbs–which an reach a half pound or more–were an important native American food.

Flowers rise above clumps of narrow, lance-shaped, basal leaves that can grow 12 to 24 inches long.

There are 5 or 6 members of the Camassia genus; all are bulbous perennials.

Camassia leichtlinii blue flowers in the Spring
Camassia leichtlinii blue flowers in the Spring

Get to know Camassia 

  • Plant type: Bulb 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 4 to 9 depending on the variety 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 4
  • Height and width:  1 to 4 feet (.3-1.2m) tall and wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage:  Grasslike basal leaves; leaves are narrow and linear
  • Flowers: Tiny, star-shaped, blue or white blooms in loose or dense terminal racemes
  • Bloom time: Late spring to summer. 
  • Uses: Good in wildflower gardens, cutting gardens, or in borders.   
  • Garden companions: Japanese primrose (Primula japonica). 
  • Common name: Camass, quamash, wild hyacinth
  • Botanical name: Camassia
  • Family name: Liliaceae
  • Origin: Northern California and Northwest

Where to plant Camassia 

  • Plant Camassia in sun or light shade.  
  • Plant Camassia in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil.
  • Plant bulbs where they can remain undisturbed for many years.  

When to plant Camassia 

  • Plant Camassia bulbs in autumn.
  • Sow Camassia seeds in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe.  
Camassia leichtlinii; common name: camass
Camassia leichtlinii; common name: camass

Planting and spacing Camassia 

  • Plant Camassia bulbs 4 to 5 inches (10-13cm) deep in moist well-drained soil.
  • Plant Camassia 6 to 20 inches (15-50cm) apart.
  • For best effect, arrange bulbs in drifts of a dozen or more.

How to water and feed Camassia

  • Camassia want moist but not waterlogged soil during its growing season; dry soil after leaves die back is not a problem.
  • Feed Camassia with an all-purpose bulb food in spring. 

How to care for Camassia 

  • Allow foliage to naturally die back then remove it.
  • Mark or map where Casmasia grows to avoid overplanting or digging up bulbs.

Camassia pests and diseases 

  • Camassia can develop leaf spots and leaf smut. 

Camassia propagation 

  • So seeds in containers in a cold frame.
  • Remove bulb offsets when dormant in summer and replant them.
Camassia leichtlinii
Camassia leichtlinii

Camassia varieties to grow 

  • Camassia cusickii, Camass, has steel blue, plumy flowers on 6 to 18-inch racemes; grows to 2 feet (.6m) tall; best in Zones 3 to 9.  
  • C. leichtliniiI, Leichtlin quamash: grows 2 to 4 feet tall’; bears 6 to 12-inch racemes of creamy white flowers–‘Albla’ has white blooms; cultivar ‘Coerulea’ has dark blue blooms and is 2 to 4 feet (.6-1m) tall.  
  • C. quamash, Quamash, has bright blue flowers. 10 to 30 inches (25-76cm) tall. ‘Orion’ has darker blue, larger flowers. 30 inches (76cm) tall.   
  • C. scilloides, western camassia: grows to 30 inches tall; bears racemes of blue-violet flowers.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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