Giant sea squill has a baby

In the photo below, take a look at the plant on the right:

Several neighbors walking by have asked me recently what it was, thinking it might be a succulent. It may not be, depending on your definition of succulents (more on that below), but it fits right in, doesn’t it?

In fact, it’s a giant sea squill (Drimia maritima), a large bulb native to rocky coastal habitat of the Mediterranean Basin. In response to the area’s summer dry/winter wet climate (just like ours), it’s in leaf in the winter and spring, goes dormant in the summer, and produces flowers in the fall.

Our Drimia maritima is about 20 years old and has been solitary. Until now. Take a look at what’s peeking out between the mother plant on the right and the Agave nuusaviorum on the left:

It’s a baby sea squill.

I suppose I should (re)move that rock to the left of it to make room for the baby to grow!

I originally bought my bulb in September 2013 at the Home Depot (i.e. 10 years ago) for $15.98. It was an impressive size even then. The sign in the store said the bulbs were 10 years old, so that would make mine 20 years old now.

Size when I bought it in September 2013

Two years ago, in October 2021, I moved the bulb from its original spot to its current home. At the time, it was 22 inches from the top of the emerging leaves to the bottom of the roots, 11 inches side to side, and 38 inches in circumference.

Size when I relocated it in October 2021

Drimia maritima bulbs can grow to massive proportions. Internet sources give a diameter ranging from 6" to 12" and a weight ranging from 2 to 9 pounds. Mine was on the verge of exceeding these dimensions in October 2021. Maybe that’s why it finally split. According to San Marcos Growers, “[i]nstead of forming bulbils as basal offsets this bulb splits dichotomously, forming 2 bulbs for each one and eventually making a large clump.”

Take a look at this clump in the UC Davis Arboretum:

Clump of Drimia maritima in the UC Davis Arboretum

The flowers of Drimia maritima fall in the “interesting” category:

Drimia maritima flowers in the UC Davis Arboretum

While the flowers may be nothing to write home about, the leaves do tick all the boxes for me:

Our Drimia maritima almost three years ago in its original spot, with Euphorbia characias ‘Glacier Blue’ on the right

Which brings me back to the question as to whether bulbs are succulents. According to one definition cited in Wikipedia, “succulent plants are drought-resistant plants in which the leaves, stem, or roots have become more than usually fleshy by the development of water-storing tissue.”

If you accept that definition, then many bulbs could be considered succulents.

An oldtimer once told me that any bulb that grows partially above ground is a succulent. That would include Drimia maritima and any number of South African bulbs like amaryllis, haemanthus, boophone, brunsvigia, as well as the veltheimia below:

Veltheimia capensis with partially exposed bulbs – succulent or not?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Drimia maritima is a succulent or not. It’s a cool plant, and I’m glad mine is thriving. Although I’m not sure I really want a clump of them in one place – I prefer the look of a solitary rosette of leaves. When our baby squill is a little bigger, I’ll dig it up and move it somewhere else.

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Interesting discussion about bulb/succulents. And I have to take exception to the giant sea squill's flowers being meh -- I love everything about this bulb, flowers and leaves! But its size would be an awkward fit in a small garden like mine. And if that veltheimia is yours, it's an amazing clump. I had a small potful that malingered and withered away, last time I looked...

    1. The Veltheimia capensis is mine. I started out with 1 bulb, now I have 7, and I've pulled off and given away several. I look forward to it flowering as much as I look forward to aloe flowers.

  2. I so wish my Veltheimia had grown as well as yours! (They seem to have disappeared entirely over the years.)

    I've got 5 of the Drimia bulbs down at the bottom of my slope. Only the first one, planted in 2019, has ever bloomed. I added 4 more somewhat smaller bulbs in 2020 so they may need to gain more girth. Despite receiving very little rain this fall, they've all developed foliage. As I regularly have to rescue them from the ivy that crawls over the property line down there, your post has me wondering if perhaps I should move one or more up to the main level of the garden, where I can at least appreciate the foliage.

    1. You have enough drimias to move a few up to the main level of your garden where you would see the foliage.

      DId you have Veltheimia capensis or bracteata? They have different requirements (full sun one, much less sun/shade the other).

  3. The title of this post sounds like a bad B-rated sci-fi movie. The bulb that crushed the garden. Truly a really neat bulb. I see these offered occasionally as small pot plants which would have to be grown indoors here. It would need a truly big pot based on how big yours has become. You should name your little sea squill.

    1. LOL, B-rated sci-fi movie, I love it!!

      There are lots of other (smaller!) bulbs you can enjoy in pots.

  4. I love my giant Drimia that I purchased from Jan Emming back about 4 years ago. It is a big one but I had to move it to a better location a couple of years ago. I really don’t care if it ever flowers. The beautiful leaves are a win! Are the 2 Trichs still where you planted them in 2021? My Flying Saucer is huge also. Flowers so well here, thank goodness. So many of them don’t. Any recommendations on small growing Echinopsis to get that flower well. I usually get Echinopsis from Brent Wigard.

    1. It's great to hear your drimia is thriving in Phoenix. That's a testament to its toughness!!

      Yes, Trichocereus/Echinopsis 'Flying Saucer' and 'First Light' are still there in the sidewalk bed. They're doing really well.

      As for smaller echinopsis, I find that virtually all of the Schick hybrids stay small. 'Salmon Queen' is a nice one that seems to clump readily.

    2. Thank you Gerhard. Happy Holidays to you and your family.


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