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Camassia (Camas)

Camas, Wild Hyacinth, Camass, Quamash, Leichtlin’s Camass, Camassia leichtlinii, Camassia cusickii, Camassia quamash

Camassia, (Camas), Camas, Wild Hyacinth, Camass, Quamash, Leichtlin’s Camass, Camassia leichtlinii, Camassia cusickii, Camassia quamash, spring flowers, blue flowers
Camassia, camas, quamash

Add native charm to your garden with Camas. Vibrant star-shaped flowers in various colors bloom on elegant stems, creating a captivating and eco-friendly display.

What is Camas?

Camassia is native to North America, with a range extending from Canada’s British Columbia to as far south as California and eastward to the Great Plains.

Description: Camassia is a perennial bulbous plant, characterized by its tall, straight stems and attractive, star-shaped flowers. The plants produce racemes of flowers that open sequentially from bottom to top, providing a prolonged bloom period.

Growth Habit and Size: Camassia grows from a bulb and forms clumps of tall, upright stems, reaching heights between 1 to 3 feet (30-90 cm) depending on the species and variety. Camas naturalize easily and come back year after year. Over time, it can slowly spread to form large colonies if conditions are right.

Flowers: The flowers of Camassia are its most striking feature. Each stem produces a long, elegant spike of up to 100 star-shaped flowers adorned with six slender loose petals, a green center, and bright yellow stamens. The flowers vary from pale lilac or white to deep purple or blue-violet.

Foliage: The foliage of Camassia is slender, grass-like, and bright green, providing a beautiful contrast to the tall, upright flower spikes.

Blooming Season: Camassia typically blooms in late spring to early summer, filling a gap between the spring bulbs and summer perennials.

Hardiness: Camassia is a hardy plant, tolerating winter temperatures in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8.

Uses: Camassia is versatile and can be used in a variety of settings. It’s beautiful in meadow gardens, woodland borders, and alongside ponds or streams. They also work well in cottage gardens and mixed borders.

Pollinators: Camassia is an excellent plant for attracting bees and other pollinators, making it a beneficial addition to a wildlife-friendly garden.

Toxicity: Unlike some bulbous plants, camassia is not known to be toxic to humans or pets. Camassia species are edible and nutritious plants. They were a food staple for Indigenous peoples and settlers in the American Old West.

Deer and Rabbit Resistance: Camassia is typically resistant to deer and rabbits, making it a good choice in areas where these creatures are common.

Drought Tolerance: Once established, Camassia is fairly drought-tolerant in summer (when it goes dormant), making it a suitable choice for xeriscaping or low-water gardens.

Invasiveness: Camassia is not considered invasive. It can slowly spread to form large colonies but is generally not aggressive or problematic.

Camassia, camas, quamash

Why Should I Grow Camas?

Growing Camas (Camassia) can offer several benefits to your garden:

Fills Blooming Gap: Camas blooms in late spring to early summer, a time when many spring bulbs have finished blooming but summer perennials have yet to start. This makes it an excellent choice for maintaining continuous color in your garden.

Attracts Pollinators: The starry flowers of Camas are known to attract bees and other beneficial pollinators, making it a great addition to a wildlife-friendly garden.

Low Maintenance: Once established, Camas is relatively low maintenance. It’s also deer and rabbit resistant, which means it’s less likely to be damaged by these common garden pests.

Versatility: Camas can be used in a variety of settings, including meadow gardens, woodland borders, and alongside ponds or streams. It’s also a great addition to cottage gardens and mixed borders.

Naturalizes Well: Over time, Camas can slowly spread to form large colonies, creating a beautiful, naturalized look.

Non-Toxic: Unlike some bulbous plants, Camas is not known to be toxic to humans or pets, making it a safer choice if you have children or animals who spend time in your garden.

Given these benefits, if you’re looking for an attractive, low-maintenance plant that can bring late spring color and attract pollinators, Camas could be a great choice for your garden.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 8
Heat Zones 1 - 8
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17
Plant Type Bulbs, Perennials
Genus Camassia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early)
Height 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Northeast, California, Midwest, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Montana
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees
Landscaping Ideas Banks And Slopes, Beds And Borders, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow

Pretty Camas Varieties

Garden Design with Camas

Camas is a versatile plant that can fit well into a variety of garden designs due to its tall, upright habit, late spring to early summer blooming period, and attractive, star-shaped flowers. Here are a few ideas for incorporating Camas into your garden design:

Cottage Gardens: The charming, star-shaped flowers of Camas would fit perfectly into a cottage garden design. Plant in drifts amongst other perennials, such as lupines, peonies, and foxgloves for a display full of texture and color.

Woodland Borders: Given Camas’s ability to thrive in partial shade and its native origins, it would fit perfectly into a woodland border. Surround it with ferns, hostas, and other shade-loving plants for a lush, green backdrop.

Water Features: If you have a pond or a stream in your garden, Camas, which prefers moist soils, would be a great choice for the nearby plantings. Pair with other moisture-loving plants like irises and astilbe.

Naturalized Meadows: Plant Camas in large groups in a meadow or prairie-style garden for a stunning, naturalized display. As they spread over time, they’ll create a beautiful sea of color each spring.

Mixed Borders: In a mixed border, Camas’s vertical growth habit can provide excellent contrast to lower-growing plants. Consider pairing with early spring bulbs, late summer perennials, and ornamental grasses to provide year-round interest.

Containers: For those with limited space, Camas can also be grown in containers. Combine with trailing plants and other spring-blooming flowers for an attractive pot display.

When planning your garden design, consider that Camas is most impactful when planted in large groups or drifts. Also, remember that it is a bulbous plant and will die back after flowering, so plan for later perennials to fill in the gaps. With its unique features and versatility, Camas can add a unique and attractive element to many garden designs.

Camassia,camas, quamash

Companion Plants

Camas (Camassia) is a versatile plant that can be paired with various companions to create a visually appealing garden. Here are some plants that make great companions for Camas:

Alliums: The bold, spherical flower heads of Alliums can provide a beautiful contrast to the star-shaped flowers of Camas. Both bloom in late spring to early summer and prefer well-drained soil.

Ferns: The texture of fern foliage can create a beautiful contrast to the upright flower spikes of Camas. They are particularly useful for providing interest in the garden after the Camas has finished blooming.

Ornamental Grasses: The feathery texture and movement of ornamental grasses pair well with the rigid, upright flower spikes of Camas. Grasses can also provide interest in the garden after the Camas has gone dormant.

Lupines: The large, colorful spikes of Lupines can complement the more delicate Camas flowers. Both plants prefer a sunny location and well-drained soil.

Foxgloves: Their tall, bell-shaped flowers can add height and interest alongside camas. They also share a similar blooming period.

Irises: Irises, especially those with a similar bloom period like Siberian or Japanese irises, can create a stunning color and texture contrast when planted with Camas.

Hostas: The broad, bold foliage of Hostas provides a striking contrast to the slender leaves and flowers of Camas. Hostas can also help fill the space left when Camas goes dormant.

Remember, when choosing companion plants, consider the needs of each plant in terms of sunlight, soil, and water to ensure that they can all thrive together. Each of these companion plants can complement Camas in terms of color, texture, or form, creating an attractive and dynamic garden display.

Companion Plants for Camas

Allium (Ornamental Onion)
Lupinus (Lupine)
Digitalis (Foxglove)
Iris ensata (Japanese Iris)
Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris)
Hosta (Plantain Lily)

Growing Tips

Growing Camas (Camassia) is fairly straightforward if you follow the right steps:

Choose the Right Location: Camas thrive in full sun to partial shade. It’s important to choose a location that gets enough light but is also somewhat sheltered from the strong, hot afternoon sun.

Prepare the Soil: Camas prefers fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil. If your soil is heavy clay or drains poorly, consider amending it with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage.

Planting: Plant Camas bulbs in the fall. Dig a hole about three times the height of the bulb. Place the bulb in the hole, pointed end up, and cover with soil. Space the bulbs about 6 inches (15 cm) apart.

Watering: After planting, water thoroughly. During the growing season, water regularly, but avoid waterlogging the soil. Reduce watering once the plant has finished flowering and the leaves have died back.

Fertilizing: Apply a slow-release bulb fertilizer in early spring to promote healthy growth and flowering.

Care after Flowering: After the flowers have faded, leave the foliage until it turns yellow and dies back. This allows the plant to store energy for next year’s growth.

Propagation: Camas can be propagated by seed or by division. For division, wait until the foliage has died back, then carefully lift the bulbs, separate the offsets, and replant them immediately.

Overwintering: Camas bulbs are winter-hardy and can be left in the ground over winter in most climates. In very cold climates, you may want to apply a layer of mulch for extra protection.

With the right care and conditions, Camas can be a long-lived and attractive addition to your garden, providing beautiful blooms in late spring to early summer.

Discover These Helpful Guides for Further Reading

Brighten Up Your Garden From January Through May with Colorful Flower Bulbs
Flower Bulbs That Thrive Under Trees
Naturalizing Bulbs In The Lawn

Garden Examples

Brilliant Cherry Blossoms for my Spring Garden
Cherry Blossoms and Camassia for my Spring Garden
An Eye-Catching Border Idea with Lupines, Avens and Mullein
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 8
Heat Zones 1 - 8
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17
Plant Type Bulbs, Perennials
Genus Camassia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early)
Height 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Northeast, California, Midwest, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Montana
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees
Landscaping Ideas Banks And Slopes, Beds And Borders, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
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