A native to France and Italy, Nectaroscordum siculum, the Sicilian Honey Lily blooms with cascades of white, pendulous, bell-shaped flowers, strikingly marked with purple and pink markings, flushed green at the base on the outside and a little darker inside.
The leaves are triangular in cross section, twisting as they rise. bell-shaped flowers branching out from a central point. The sturdy stems rising to about 50 to 75cm (20 to 30in) carry clusters of 20 to 30 thimble-sized blooms. Later, intriguingly, the pollinated seed heads all point skywards, like little spaceships waiting to lift off.
Nectaroscordum siculum is a close relative of the alliums, and, as with alliums the flower, the seed head and the leaves each make a valuable contribution in the garden. They look wonderful both in the border and when cut for arrangements.
Frost hardy, these plants are easily grown in a sunny or partially shaded site. They can be grown in rough grass or borders in any moderately fertile soil that is neither too dry nor waterlogged.
Sowing: Sow at any time of year.
The seeds can be sown directly where they are to flower at any time of year, or can be sown indoors, the seedlings over wintered in the greenhouse and then planted out in the following spring.
The seeds need a period of moisture and cold after harvest before they will germinate, usually this is necessary to either allow the embryo to mature or to break dormancy.
If sown indoors in warmer weather, the period of dormancy can be artificially stimulated by placing the moistened seed in a refrigerator. It is best to sow them on moistened, well draining compost, seal the container in a polythene bag and leave everything in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks at around 4 to 5°C (39 to 41°F). The seeds must be moist whilst being pre-chilled, but it doesn't usually benefit them to be actually in water or at temperatures below freezing. After prechilling bring out of the fridge to 13 to 16°F (55 to 60°F)
Light seems to be beneficial and so pre-chilled seeds should have only the lightest covering of compost over them, and the seed trays etc. should be in the light. Compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times. Germination should occur 18 to 21 days.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out.
Plant out in spring into fertile, well drained soil. Add grit when grown in clay soils to improve drainage. Remember that the foliage dies back as flowering commences; you may wish to place this behind a smaller plant to disguise its foliage. When planting try to plant in groups of at least 3 or 5 as they do look much better in clumps.
Prepare the soil prior to planting by cultivating up to 30cm of soil, on heavier soils add a couple of handfuls of grit under each bulb before planting to improve drainage. Alliums grow well in most soil types but do prefer to be planted in well-drained sunny spots. The bulbs of Alliums vary tremendously in size so the best advice on planting depth is to plant the bulbs at a depth of three to four time their depth in the soil. On light soils, increase the planting depths to help anchor the taller varieties. The soil around Alliums should be kept moist during the flowering period.
They can also be used for naturalising in grassland or similar areas, however please note that as they do not flower until late (May-June) you will not be able to cut the grass until they die back in July.
Planting in Containers:
To plant in pots ensure you have a sturdy deep container (the height and weight of the taller alliums will cause smaller containers to topple over), put crocks in the bottom to allow for drainage and then add about 10cms of potting compost. Place the bulbs on top of the compost so that they are not touching the outside pot or each other. Cover with at least 20cms of potting compost and firm down. During the winter months ensure the compost is kept moist but not too wet and protect from frost. When you see the first signs of growth in the spring (March-April) increasing the amount of water to ensure the compost does not dry out.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Gravel Garden or Rock Garden.
The bulbs can be left undisturbed from year to year and as long as they are well fed will continue to flower. If you do need to lift them wait until the flower stems and leaves have turned brown and break off when touched. The bulbs can then be dug up (around July) and their offsets removed. After they have been cleaned of soil, leave in a cool light place until they can be planted again in September. Only replant bulbs that look healthy and of a good size.
Nectaroscordum siculum is native to Asia Minor, southern France, mainland Italy (Basilicata, Abruzzo, Umbria, Toscana), Sardinia, Corsica, Bulgaria, and Sicily, growing in damp, shady woods.
Nectaroscordum siculum is a perennial, ornamental, bulbous plant. Once placed in the Liliacea (Lily) family, it has been moved to the newly constituted Alliaceae (Onion) family. It is a member of a small subgenus Nectaroscordum of Allium, which consists of only this species and Allium tripedale.
Interestingly, in some European countries the plant is more likely to be found in the vegetable plot than in the flower beds - the leaves taste like garlic and can be chopped and added to salads. In Bulgaria a condiment is made by mixing finely chopped leaves with an equal amount of salt and drying in a warm, shady place. Lovely sprinkled on fresh tomatoes, cucumbers or baked potatoes.
Nectaroscordum derives its name from the Greek nektar, meaning ‘of or like nectar’, the sweet liquid in flowers, and scordum, meaning ‘garlic’, often used meaning ‘false garlic’. It is pronounced nek-tar-oh-SKOR-dum.
The species name siculum means ‘of or pertaining to Sicily’, the island southwest of Italy.
This close relative of the alliums has the synonyms of Allium siculum and Allium nectaroscordum.
Commonly known as Sicilian honey lily, Sicilian honey garlic, or Mediterranean bells,
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 20 Seeds Family Alliaceae Genus Nectaroscordum Species siculum subsp. bulgaricum Synonym Allium siculum, Allium nectaroscordum. Common Name Sicilian Honey Lily Other Common Names Sicilian Honey Garlic, Mediterranean Bells Hardiness Bulbous Perennial Flowers Late Spring to Early Summer Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Spread 30 to 38cm (12 to 15in) Position Full Sun to Partial Shade Germination 30 - 365 days