How to Grow Calochortus Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Mariposa Lily, Globe Tulip, Butterfly Tulip, and Fairy Lantern

Calochortus is a half hardy bulb.

It grows to a height of between 15 and 90 cm (depending on species) and flowers in the spring with cup shaped flowers with petals of yellow, white purple or red.

Some of the better known names include Globe Tulip, Butterfly Tulip, Fairy Lantern, Cat's ear, Mariposa lily, Star Tulip and Sego lily.

Calochortus albus
Calochortus albus by Scott Zona.

Calochortus by Tom Hilton.

How to Grow Calochortus

Calochortus Growing Guide and Facts

Common Names: Mariposa, Mariposa Lily, Globe Lily, Fairy Lantern, Cat’s Ear, Star Tulip, Sego Lily, Short Lily, Beavertail grass.
Diversity: There are four major clades in the 70 member containing Calochortus genus. The Mariposas are usually found in semi-desert and dry grass areas; Cat’s ears are found in montane woodlands; Fairy lanterns habitat closed forests; and Star tulips are found in wet meadows.
Family: Liliaceae (lily).
Life Cycle: Half hardy bulb.
Height: 6 to 36 inches (15 to 90 cm).
Native: Northern America.

Growing Region: Zones 5 to 10.
Flowers: Spring through to early summer.
Flower Details: White, Red, yellow, purple, blue. Delicate. Cup-shaped. Large variations: Mariposa has wedge shaped petals; Both Star Tulips and Cat’s ears have pointed petals, these are usually erect; Fairy lanterns have globe shaped flowers.
The stem has a variable number of flowers, some species have just one, whilst ones such as the elegant Mariposa (Cat’s ear) may have between one and seven.
Foliage: Linear.

Sow Outside: Seed: cover. Autumn. Bulbs: 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) Autumn. Spacing 4 inches (10 cm).
Sow Inside: It takes approximately six years for seed grown Calochortus bulbs to flower. Sow the seeds in late summer or the start of spring. Temperature 55 to 65°F (13 to 18°C). Leave in situ for two years, then pot them up. Leave for a further two years before transplanting outdoors following the last frost.

Requirements: Full sunlight or partial shade. Good drainage. Slightly acidic soil, sandy, loamy. Water very sparingly during prolonged dry spells in the summer. Provide water from winter to spring. Winter mulch. Bring bulbs indoors over the winter in cold areas and store in a frost free, but cool place. Propagate: by dividing corms in the autumn.
Miscellaneous: A traditional food crop of native Americans.

How to Grow Mariposa Lily (Calochortus)

If planning to grow Calochortus outdoors from the off it is best to sow out the seed in the autumn, simply cover the seeds.

If growing from bulbs then they should be buried at a depth of 8 to 10 cm.

When starting seedlings off indoors then it is best to start the process in the late summer or early in the spring.

Germination will take between one and six months and should be performed at a temperature of 13 to 18°C.

Growing Mariposa Lily and other Calochortus members is a long process, the seedlings should be allowed to grow for two years, re-potted, allowed another two years growth and then the bulbs planted at a distance of 10 cm apart in the garden.

Caring for Mariposa Lily

Mariposa Lily like to grow in sunny or partially shaded areas of the garden in sandy acidic soil that has good drainage. After about six years from the initial sowing the flowers should flower.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Calochortus plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Nomocharis and Tricyrtis plants.