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Triteleia Species

1/28/2023 4:23 pm

Triteleia sp.


Triteleia is a charming late spring to early summer bulb. It was unknown to me by name until Lisa Roper spoke to us in January 2023 and showed how wonderfully this bulb blends into a garden. One reason it was "unknown" was that the taxonomists did it again, changing Brodiaea to Triteleia, both a part of the Lily family. I'd previously made notes about this lovely corm on display at the Philadelphia Flower Show, but admittedly failed to follow up.


Umbrels of star shaped flowers - available in shades of blue, purple and white or lightly striped shades of these -- bloom in late spring to early summer after the foliage largely dies back. Triteleia, depending on the species or hybrid, grow from 16" to 24" high, so it is no shrinking violet in the late spring perennial bed.  


Relatively hard to find, Brent and Becky's recently announced it will have several of the showier forms available by March including Rudy (stripey lilac /white), Aquarius (double lilac), Queen Fabiola (deep blue/purple) and Silver Queen (white form). 


Triteleia species are native to the US and British Columbia.  T. hyacinthinaT. ixioides and T. laxa, were an important part of the Native American diet, with the edible corm being referred to as "Indian potatoes" or "grass nuts."  It is believed that some native Americans even cultivated these corms. When boiled or baked, they bear a sweet nutty flavor. (Calochortus is another edible corm that bears the same common name.)  All sixteen known species are from North America, mostly the West, and with California having the most endemic species.


Triteleia grow in Zone 5-10. They are reported to do well in clay soil and containers. Multiple sources claim "deer resistance," which in some of our gardens mean they eat it, but not until they've finished with hostas, hydrangeas, tulips and other nummies.  One piece of online advice for this late spring/summer bloomer strongly suggests waiting past the last frost date to plant, especially if putting in containers.


The blue/lilac forms of Triteleia mix fabulously with silvers like Salvia argentea (a great big leaved annual here), Perovskia, and Artemesia.  Other suggestions are Blue-eyed grass (Sisynchrium sp.) and Yarrow.




 ©️Lisa Roper, Chanticleer Garden