Flowering Season Summer, Spring Genus This genus of around 60 species of bulbs is found in western North America, from Canada to Mexico and Guatemala, usually growing in perfectly drained areas in grassland, scrub, and forest. The members of this genus are variously known as cats ear, fairy lanterns, or mariposa tulip, and belong to the lily (Liliaceae) family.
Throughout the species, the foliage is similar, being somewhat grass-like, but the flowers vary from dainty to flamboyant, and come in a range of colours, often with striking markings. The bulbs of certain species were eaten by Native Americans. The genus name comes from the Greek kallos, meaning beautiful, and chortos, meaning grass. Appearance Most species of Calochortus form a clump of narrow, grassy, green to grey-green leaves. Appearing during spring and summer, the attractive flowers are borne on thin wiry stems, each flower comprised of 3 petals and 3 petallike sepals, with a nectar gland located at the base of each petal. Varying in appearance from upright or nodding, or upward-facing and somewhat tulip-like, the flowers come in a wide range of colours and are often beautifully marked. Cultivation Although mainly very hardy, these plants can be difficult to grow.
Cultivation requirements vary with the species, but in general they dislike humidity and prefer a wet winter/dry summer climate. Plant in a sheltered sunny position in gritty free-draining soil. They should be well watered from late winter on, but should be allowed to dry out after flowering. Propagate by division in autumn or raise from seed.