A close up view of Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’

Ipheion 'Alberto Castillo'

Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’ is looking particularly good at the moment and is taking the spotlight now the snowdrops are almost over. Although I have had this plant for a long time, I have never found out much about it. I set about putting this right to discover how it got its name and a lot more besides.

Where’s Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’ from and how did it get that name?

Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’, was found by Alberto Castillo, owner of Ezeiza Botanical Garden, in an abandoned garden in Buenos Aires in the early 1980s and was introduced to Britain by Broadleigh Gardens of Somerset in 1992.

A whole plant of Ipheion 'Alberto Castillo'

I can remember hearing about it from Jack Elliott, a well-respected plantsman here in Kent. He was a very good judge of plants and if he said something was good you knew it probably would be. He wrote about it in his ‘Bulbs for the Rock Garden’ published in 1995 so must have been one of the first to grow it in this country.

Ipheion is a bulbous plant native to South America and Ipheion uniflorum is from Argentina and Uruguay. When first introduced it was named Ipheion uniflorum ‘Alberto Castillo’ but has now lost its species attribution. 


A close up view of Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’

What does it look like and how do you grow it?

Compared to the species, it has larger bulbs, heavier textured and more glaucous leaves, and larger, more substantial flowers. The flowers are about 4cm across, pure white with a yellowish-green throat, the segments having a darker midrib. 

It should be grown in sun or light deciduous shade in a well drained, sheltered position. It is considered to be hardy to -10˚C but might be damaged by prolonged frost. The leaves appear in late autumn followed by  solitary, upward-facing, star-shaped, scented flowers on stems up to 20cm in the spring. My experience is that it is more clump-forming and doesn’t wander over vaste areas as some other forms tend to do.

It can be propagated by division of the bulbs during their dormant period to make sure you have the true cultivar. Ipheion is easily grown from seed but seedlings wouldn’t be ‘Alberto Castillo’.

I greatly enjoy ‘Alberto Castillo’. It flowers as the snowdrops are fading so forms a bridge between them and the huge range of spring flowers still to come. Now I’ve found out so much more about ‘Alberto Castillo’ I wonder if there are more beautiful plants waiting to be found.

What else does this genus have to offer? Find out about Ipheion uniflorum and some more beautiful cultivars.

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1 Comment

  1. Colin Moat

    Quentin Stark of Hole Park has the National Collection of Ipheion which may be of interest.


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