Mariposa lily

Mariposa lily (sent in by Janet Wade).
Mariposa lily (sent in by Janet Wade). / SUR
  • This North American native has showy tulip-like flowers in spring and early summer and loves hot, dry climates

Calochortus is a genus of approximately 65 species of herbaceous plants of which around 40 are native to North America. Common names for the species include mariposa lily, fairy lanterns, globe lilies and star tulips. The majority have tulip-like flowers in shades of yellow, pink, purple and white, often streaked or spotted in the centre. Many species have long hairs on the surface of the petals or in the centre of the flower. The genus name Calochortus comes from the Greek for 'beautiful grass'.

Mariposa lily


Calochortus grows from a corm; once a source of food for early Mormon settlers of the Salt lake Valley and for Native Americans. It has long slender leaves and the thick, waxy stems carrying the single flowers appear in spring or early summer. Each corm will produce multiple flower stems, especially if fed with a liquid fertiliser weekly during the growing season. Once flowering has finished, and the tips of the leaves start to turn yellow, feeding should stop and watering reduced as the corm will be entering its dormant period. It can be left in the ground over winter but if there is a danger of waterlogging it is best to dig up the corms, leave them to dry and then store in a cool, dark place.

It is used to dry, hot regions and should not be overwatered or allowed to become waterlogged and can survive wildfires, often flowering more profusely after a fire has burnt off all surrounding vegetation. Propagation can be carried out by potting up bulblets or from seed, although the resulting seedlings will take up to five years to start flowering.