An enchanting denizen of understory plant communities in cool, moist, montane coniferous forests, bead lily is a rhizomatous perennial wildflower in the lily (Liliaceae) plant family. It is known by several common names, including bride’s bonnet, queen’s cup, single-flowered clintonia, wolf berry, blue bead and bead lily. It is native to the mountains in parts of western North America, from California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho; north to Alaska and and British Columbia, and east to Alberta and Montana.
From a rosette of 2 to 3 dark green leaves arises a 2-6″ single erect, hairy stem topped with usually only a single flower, but occasionally two flowers. The simple, star-like flower has six wide open petals that face upward with protruding white, pollen-dusted stamens. The flowers bloom in midsummer, May-July, depending on elevation. This species prefers rich soils for its rhizomatous roots to move around, so the plant can slowly creep. It will sometimes form a thick groundcover if conditions are right.
Bead lily flowers are known to be pollinated by bees, flies and beetles. After pollination in late summer to early fall the flowers give way to smooth, lustrous, deep blue, round berries. These gorgeous berries are the reason the common name bead lily is used. The berries contain an average of 6 seeds per berry. The berries, and thus seeds, are distributed by birds. Varied thrushes and ruffed grouse have been reported to eat the berries.
Bead lily has long been used culturally as a medicinal and dye plant. It is a long-lived species that can live up to thirty years or more. It is slow growing from seed and may take up to four years to flower when grown from seed. It can be propagated vegetatively from rhizome.
It is best grown in a cool, shade to part shade location in organically rich, acidic, moist soils.
Bead lily (Clintonia uniflora) seed packets contain 35 seeds per packet.
Seed Germination Instructions
This species requires at least 60-90 days cold-moist stratification in order to germinate.
Sow seeds in pots or direct sow outside in fall with a light dusting of soil over the seeds and let nature do the stratification naturally outside if you have cold enough winters. If you live in an area with mild winters, you may need to provide the cold-moist stratification artificially. For more information please read through the information in our Seed Germination and Propagation Reference Guide.