Last updated on December 6th, 2014
One of the prettiest plants in my window garden just now is Scilla Madeirensis. I planted 3 bulbs of this “Giant Squill” in early October, and six weeks later they greeted me with spectacular clusters of celestial-blue: Madeirensis is named for its native habitat: the island of Madeira, off the coast of Morocco. There, in autumn, it sends up 2-foot tall, cone-shaped flowering stalks above pointed, purple-speckled, medium-green foliage. The plant grows to about half its usual size when confined to a pot in a window garden.
The blue cones, or “racemes,” are composed of hundreds of tiny flowers. These, as you can see in the photo above, are equipped with six petals each.
I should probably tell you that I received my tropical trio from Easy to Grow Bulbs (dot) com. They asked me to test Madeirensis’s winter-forcing potential.
How the forcing-trial unfolded:
On October 2, 2014, a package 3 bulbs arrived in the mail. I promptly potted them.
I promptly potted myself, too, by drinking a martini.
The bulbs, as you can see, are amethyst-colored. Nifty, huh?
All 3 subjects were planted in a crocked, 6-inch clay pot filled with an ordinary peat/perlite potting mix. Instead of burying the bulbs, I planted them half-in, half-out of the soil. I plant amaryllis bulbs in the same manner.
Then I saturated the potting mix, and placed the bulbs in my south-facing window garden. Mercifully, Madeirensis does not require a chilling period.
The bulbs busied themselves making roots for 2 weeks. Then, wonder of wonders, the speckled foliage emerged.
I passed out cigars.
One bulb sent up a flowering stalk after 5 weeks had passed, and another after six weeks. The third bulb hasn’t flowered yet, but that’s a good thing. I’d rather have a lengthy succession of bloom than one big bang.
The flowers are surprisingly long-lasting. In my cool window garden, which never exceeds 65°F, the racemes have remained fresh for nearly a month. The individual stars fade just as they bloom — from bottom to top.
And yes, that’s snow outside my window. A nor’easter rocked my region over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Are you fond of winter-blooming houseplants, too? Talk to me in the comments field below!
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Dia Koether says
These are simply lovely, delicate and cheerful! I may be on a search for these bulbs for my window garden.
fa demoran says
flores hermosas,espectaculares ,felicitaciones !!…..me gustan las plantas ,cultivo orquideas rescatadas ……..en mi casa…saludos
I love having blooming plants during the winter, so of course I love your Madeirensis. I also didn’t realize Christmas cactus came in red! I will be looking for both plants.
Priscilla aka Cilla! says
I am going to order some of these! I am guessing I would have to treat them like amaryllis bulbs here in Montana? I do those in the house also in winter. Guessing I could never plant the Scilla’s outside here if they are from Morocco!
Lovely flowers Kevin. Are they scented?
Shirley B. says
Your window gardens are UH.MAZE.ING!!
Just beautiful! I wish I had the space to do that!
I love goldfish (nematanthus gregarius) and lipstick plants (Aeschynanthus radicans) for winter bloomers. They are happy plants in general and can bloom year round (or mine do at least)!
These are so cool. I love bulbs in a winter kitchen window. I have paper whites, grape hyacinth, and basil right now…makes the gray view sunny
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
I’ve never heard of this type of Scilla ! Really gorgeous. Splendid hue of blue. I have not forced any bulbs in several years, but this one could persuade me to try again.
Did they tell you to plant them outside in summer and bring them back inside before frost?
In winter I rely on the pale pink flowers of Oxalis triangularis, the red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the dining room’s (name forgotten) Palm with its reliable wild yellow poofs of flowers. The overwintering Coleus cuttings usually try to send up a flower stalk, too. Without more floral fanfare, I turn to foliage houseplants for amusement and then start my seeds to occupy my plant obsession in the dark, snowy months.
Where can I buy the bulbs?
Considering all your encouraging articles, I launched my own bulb forcing regiment and have both Narcissus and Hyacinths in my downstairs fridge (my wife is not altogether pleased) and in the window, you can find 3 Amaryllis bulbs and a pot of Paper Whites. Should be a bloomin’ good winter!
Carol Ballard says
Thanks for another look at your winter garden. What a beautiful blue for those flowers.
Would you happen to know anything about started the seeds of Scilla? I collected some from my client’s garden and was hoping to start them this year. Do you have any suggestions?
You sound like an adventurous sort of chap as far as forcing bulbs indoors. Might I suggest
Drimia maritima / Giant White Squill. When the bulb arrived at my home it was around 7lbs! Giant White is native to the Mediterranean seacoast, zone 8-10. Some say it is difficult to grow indoors but so far in my home in Vermont my Giant White Squill is a foot high. It is very maintenance free once you find a pot large enough and a sunny space with lots of room for it 3ft long. You can read up on the details, otherwise this message will go on and on. It has also had a number of other names including Scilla maritima,Urginea scilla, Urginea maritima, Maritime Squill, Sea Squill and White Squill. I got my giant bulb from Fedco Bulbs from Waterville Me. I also buy my seeds etc. from them as well.
Thank you for your enthusiasm about gardening. It makes me feel like I am not so crazy.
These are absolutely beautiful! I will have to see about ordering some. Thanks for sharing!
Interesting post, Kevin. From some brief research it looks like it is actually considered an endangered plant on Madeira. I’m wondering what your expectations are for aftercare and rebloom and if it is a bulb that tends to multiply and will it be available commercially in the US? The site you mention, Easy to Grow Bulbs dot com does not offer them at this time. Although I considered the Peruvian lily, I’d rather have something that will bloom in the dead of winter like the amaryllis. All the best. Kim
Beautiful and just what I will need in Jan or Feb. Off to my garden shop today, hope they have them but if not I may try to force a different ‘giant squill” Happy Birthday to you today, Your posts are a highlight of my days, so many great ideas. I wish I could visit your farm but alas I am on the west coast of Canada so not very likely. Also wishing you Happy Holidays.
Those are gorgeous!
Happy Birthday Kevin hope you have a wonderful day. I enjoy getting your emails and the recipes are the best. Thanks for sharing.
Just beautiful. I’m looking forward to a source for this beauty. Happy Birthday, Kevin. I look forward to you newsletter each week. Keep them coming, please. 🙂
Patti Johnson says
They are beautiful. Thanks for sharing..
Cheryl Balzer says
Beautiful and so delicate. Love the pictures.
Beautiful!!! Same question as another poster, though. Scent?
Patsy Bell Hobson says
You have expanded my world. I’ve never seen this bulb before. Lovely.
Zoe Williams says
are these related to what I know as Silver Squills, or Wood Hyacinth’ leaves are dark and blotchy grey/purple bulbs that are small and multiply quickly but the flower looks the same. about 4″ long and lots of them each spring. by the by Happy Birthday…
Kevin, I love your site and sense of humor! I have saved all emails in a separate file so can look up (especially recipes) very quickly. Keep up the great work.
Trudi Dido says
I second the question about scented? yay or nay? That color is so beautif
ul exp in the grey days of winter
Rick in CT says
These are great. I was able to obtain one about a month ago from Longfield gardens, although it’s so cool here right now it’s barely growing. I know that mine is a clone. Does anyone know of a source of seeds or seedlings? I’m guessing that the flowers aren’t self-fertile?
Rick in CT
Roberta G.W. Myyra says
Christmas tree came down, amaryllis wanted to be the star of the living room. So nice when it is dreary and brown outside, even nicer when there is snow! Which doesn’t look likely in SE MI.
Philip Adams says
I found a source for several Scilla madeirensis bulbs and grabbed them right away. Luckily, I planted them into a 3-gallon pot here in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley where I live. The bulbs quickly sent out roots and grew apace. Then, in late September, the flower scapes started appearing. I waited to see if the bulbs produced as shown in various images, and in time they most certainly did. In fact, while they were in bloom, I jostled the scapes one against the other time after time. The result was seed on each scape. The seed turns yellowish when they are ripe, and one has to carefully remove the squishy plant material around the actual seed, of which there is just one in each. This seed is hard as a rock, which is why one is advised to soak the seed for about 12 hours before planting in April. Right now I have a 2-gallon pot with about 25 new seedlings growing lustily. I can only hope they all mature, as their blooms should be breathtaking. As my home in the San Fernando Valley has winter lows that may reach 38 to 40 degrees, I will protect this pot so that it does not get the full brunt of such chill. Our summer temps are predictably 95 degrees and occasionally even up to 100 degrees — with 10-15% humidity. Since madeirensis is asleep during this onslaught, I presume that keeping the pot in a shady, moist nook will suffice to keep it happy. A little drink of water now and then also should be appreciated. I cannot give the bulbs the maritime climate where they are endangered, so I am duplicating their growing conditions as closely as I can. So far, I am successful — in fact, the bubs have sent forth huge, aggressive roots right through the holes in the pot. Guess that means they are happy! A web search for this scilla should yield you results, and I wish you all the luck in growing this gorgeous bulb.
Jacqueline Lee says
Kevin, you are THE best gardening read ANYWHERE! I love your silly little comments interspersed throughout. My husband is asking me, “What’s SO funny?” Everyone needs to be around someone like you!
This is the second year for my bulb. Last year, foliage, no bloom. Had a period of dormancy and now in October, has sent up foliage again and am still waiting for a flower stalk to appear. I read somewhere that they don’t bloom for 3 years..wondering if this is the case and I just got a very immature bulb.