Dramatic, Extraordinary & Indestructible - Giant White Squill!
Urginea Maritima | Giant White Squill
The giant white squill, urginea maritima, is, hands down, the most extraordinary flower bulb I have ever encountered. Absolutely every single thing about this bulb is bizarre and bewitching! If you already know and love urginea maritima - the giant white squill bulbs are in stock and ready to roll right now! If you are not familiar with this amazing variety, have I got a story for you! Sit back with a cup of coffee and let's explore this incredible plant.
Giant White Squill in the U.S.
To begin the story of the giant white squill at the beginning, (or at least the beginning of the story in the U.S.) we should begin with Peter McCrohan, the man who brought them to America.
Years ago, while traveling in the Mediterranean, Peter saw these astonishing white blooms curling and twisting, growing in an apparently dry field. Upon investigation, he learned the glorious flowers were just an incidental result of growing the active ingredients in the rat poison that was produced there.
Peter saw an opportunity. He believed that the stunning blooms would be welcomed in the high end cut flower industry in America, and he decided to find out. He bought eight of the massive bulbs and shipped them home to the Mojave desert. Investing great time and energy in the desert, over the years, Peter's patch of giant squill grew to cover eight acres!
His instincts were correct - the toniest areas of the country went wild for the spectacular, twisting, twining bloom spikes, and they became used in upscale garden design and style magazines and imagery. But it was Jim Threadgill, the owner of Easy to Grow Bulbs, who saw the potential for a giant squill market with the home gardener. So the bulb man and the godfather of the American Giant Squill began a beautiful friendship!
Giant White Squill in the Home Garden
Giant white squill produces enormous flower spikes that grow 5-6 feet tall, covered with thousands of starry white, honey-scented blooms. The flower stems twist and curls and undulates as they grow, changing shape from one hour to the next. Where two bulbs are planted next to each other, or in a "double nosed" bulb with 2 stems, the two flower stems will mirror one another in a slow-motion ballet-like two dolphins jumping, turning and diving together. Absolutely incredible! The bloom spikes continue to grow up to 6-8 inches in the vase, where they continue their intriguing, sensuous curving and curling.
But this is jumping to the end of the story of giant squill in the garden. First, you have an enormous bulb, larger than a soccer ball, that has been growing in Peter's fields for 10 years! It must be planted in full sun where it will get a very stingy allotment of water. These bulbs are commercially grown in the Mojave desert with no supplemental irrigation!
No need to incorporate pest control! Giant white squill - the active ingredient in rat poisons - is naturally highly resistant to deer and rabbits, rodents, coyotes, armadillo, and every other pest we have tried!
Fall through spring, the foliage is lush and lavish, with a tropical look that utterly belies its arid growing conditions. Come summer, the bulb goes dormant. While it is often described for most other bulbs and perennials as "slipping into dormancy" sort of like drifting off to sleep, with the giant white squill, there is no "slip" - they take a running jump into dormancy! They look just as fresh and lovely and full of life as ever one evening, and by early next morning, the entire plant seems to have utterly collapsed, soon to dry up and blow away. The first time my giant squill went dormant, it looked like the neighbor kids had jumped up and down on the plant and then sprayed it with poison! I was so upset! But it was just yet another instance of this incredible plant being... incredible!
A dry summer of bare soil follows. Then comes the flowers! Rapidly soaring to its full height, the flowering stem grows 5-6 feet tall in just a matter of days. Thousands of white buds form starry blooms with a delicious, honey-like scent. The stems feel rigid and resist bending (yes, I have tried), but over the hours every day, they slowly twist and twirl, curling, straightening and forming new shapes, undulating to unheard music all day long.
The flowering stems bloom in majestic solitude for weeks before fading, and it is not until they are finished that the broad beautiful leaves begin to form. As they do, they remain folded close to one another, looking like enormous artichokes sprouting from the soil. Then, the leaves begin to open and arch out from the center to form a lovely (and huge) posy of tropical leaves that grace the garden for months.
Giant white squill is hardy to climate zones 8-11, and they do not like frost. So how is it that we have customers happily growing them in Alaska, upstate New York and Michigan? Well, gardeners are endlessly inventive, and the siren call of the alluring giant squill is not to be underestimated!
Giant white squill can be successfully grown in a large container, planted with the top half of the bulb exposed above the soil (which, incidentally, makes for a striking architectural statement even when it is dormant). The container must be outdoors in full, blazing sun from spring through fall, but will continue to grow its lush foliage all winter indoors, protected from winter's cold.
How to Plant and Grow Giant White Squill
Meet Peter McCrohan as he shows how to plant and grow giant white squill:
Sun Exposure for Growing Giant White Squill
How to grow squill begins with plenty of sunshine. Giant white squill should be planted where they will get full sun for as many hours a day as possible.
Your soil should be well-drained for growing the squill. Too much clay in the soil will cause it to retain too much water, which can harm your squill bulb. No need to enrich nutritionally poor soil. If it drains well, the giant white squill will thrive!
A mature, 10-year-old giant squill bulb is ready to reliably bloom ever year. Larger than a soccer ball, happily they should be planted very shallowly, with the tip of the bulb right at or a bit above the soil line.
Water Requirements for Giant White Squill
Once you have planted your giant white squill bulb, water it in thoroughly to settle the soil around it. In another week's time, water again. From then on, your squill will thrive on the water that nature provides! Please note that this is dry land, Mediterranean native that flourishes in locations that receive very little water. Do not "pamper" your giant squill with additional water.
Fertilizing, Pinching Back, or Fussing?
We, gardeners, like to show our favorite plants extra attention, getting the fertilizing just right, lovingly tending with gentle pinching back, grooming, and kind words. None of this is needed for the giant white squill (though they reportedly enjoy a Dr. Seuss reading every once in a while!)
- Kathleen McCarthy