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How to Care for a Queen’s Cup Plant

Gorgeous queen's cup plant with single white flower growing on forest floor

Clintonia Uniflora

Not every garden is south facing. Some gardens are completely covered by huge and leafy trees and don’t receive much sunlight, and sometimes it can be hard to find flowering plants that can tolerate little to no sun. Luckily for us, there’s a gorgeous flower called clintonia uniflora that can be that shade-tolerant garden plant!

C uniflora has several other common names. You may have heard it under bride’s bouquet, bead lily, or single flowered clintonia, but the most common is queen’s cup. The botanical latin specific epithet, uniflora, is in reference to the fact that they will only produce one single flower blossom!

This charming looking woodland perennial plant is a proud member of the lily family (lilaceae) and is one of the favorites of the Royal Botanic Gardens. They are loved by gardeners for their tolerance to shady and moist soils. Read on to learn all about why the queen’s cup should be your next spring perennial!

What do Queen’s Cup Plants Look Like?

Amazing set of queen's cup plants with bright white flowers

Growth Habit

Starting under the soil, queen’s cup plants grow from underground rhizomes. Underground rhizomes basically act as a storage facility that contain all of the nutrients and moisture necessary to keep a plant healthy in more harsh climate conditions.

The queen’s cup is a rhizomatous perennial herbaceous plant, meaning that it also has spindly stems and it will flower every spring as long as its ideal growing conditions are maintained. This may be shocking, but a specimen can live to be over 30 years old!

Queen’s cups are the smallest of the genus clintonia, and they will only achieve heights of around 6-10 inches. This height comes from a single, short leafless stalk that will bear either a single flower or rarely two flowers.

Leaves

An easy way to identify a queen’s cup plant is by its foliage. It bears a basal rosette of leaves at the base of a single hairy stem. There are only about 2-3 leaves per plant, and each leaf is about 1-3 inches wide.

The topside of a leaf will be shiny and green, and the underside of a leaf will be a lighter green color and covered with long and soft hairs. The stem emerges from the centre of the rosette of leaves.

Flowers

The easiest way to identify a queen’s cup plant is by its flowers. Each plant bears a very distinct, small simple flower. The plant will usually flower in the early summer and last into the late summer (around late May through to July).

Each queen’s cup flower is a white, star shaped flower that has 6 white tepals and 6 protruding white stamens which upon closer observation, are dusted with bright yellow pollen. After the flower has been pollinated, it will bear a single, round blue berry. This is another attractive ornamental aspect, and it attracts species that can spread its seeds as well!

What are some Other Clintonia Species?

Light yellow queen's cup flowers growing in the boreal forest

Boreal Clintonia (Clintonia Borealis)

Clintonia borealis gets its name, which means “of the north” because it grows in North America north in the boreal forests of Canada and the northeastern United States. It also goes by the names of yellow clintonia or yellow bluebird lily.

C borealis can be identified by its erect stems, bright yellow flowers, and gorgeous and striking, small dark blue berries. It will usually achieve heights occurring between 5 and 10 inches.

Red Clintonia (Clintonia Andrewsiana)

C andrewsiana also goes by the names of Andrew’s clintonia, bluebird lily, western bluebird lily, or red clintonia. This species from the genus clintonia is native to central California and Southwestern Oregon, and grows very prosperously in the Del Norte County.

C andrewsiana is a rhizomatous perennial herb can be identified by its dark green leaves and bright red flowers. It is also the largest species is the genus and can achieve heights between 12 and 30 inches.

Where is Queen’s Cup a Native Plant?

Foliage of the queen's cup plant growing next to stump in pacific northwest forest

Luckily for us gardeners, it would be difficult to find a place where the queen’s cup plant wouldn’t be happy growing. But it is always worth discovering where a species is considered a native plant to ensure we can try to mimic those conditions as closely as possible.

The queen’s cup is a native plant to the pacific northwest, but can also grow on the eastern side of North America as well as western North America. They grow extremely prosperously starting in southwestern Alberta, and their range extends towards both southern Alaska, down to British Columbia, southwestern Oregon and northwestern California as well.

When growing wild, they can often be found growing in cool montane coniferous forests. They prefer to live in moist forests with a dense tree canopy, and are often found in forests with red cedar trees, western hemlock trees, fir trees, and white pine trees.

Queen’s cup plants will be happy growing outdoors all year long in USDA growing zones 4 through 8, but should be brought indoors for the cold winter months in all other zones.

What are the Ideal Growing Conditions for Queen’s Cup Plants?

Single blooming white flower of a queen's cup plant growing in forest

Now that we have all of the basic information regarding queen’s cup plants, it’s time for you to learn the ease in which you can grow one of your very own. You can easily incorporate queen’s cup care into your regular gardening routine by remembering these simple guidelines:

Soil Type

Though queen’s cup plants can grow in all sorts of different habitats as wildflowers, there are some characteristics that their soil type can have to keep them as happy as possible.

These plants prefer to live in soil that is well draining, rich in nutrients, and light in texture. The ideal type is loamy or sandy soil.

A super easy way to achieve this soil type is by incorporating some compost to the soil at the beginning of the growing season. This will not only increase the nutrient level of the soil, but it will increase drainage as well.

Water Level

Something to remember about queen’s cup plants is that they prefer to live in moist soil. This is obvious by the fact that they tend to grow in boreal forests in the Pacific Northwest, which are usually very moist areas.

It is best to make sure that your plant is receiving around 1-2 inches of water per week. If there isn’t very much precipitation within a week, they will need supplemental watering to maintain soil moisture.

Bright white flowers in the forest of a queen's cup plant

Sun Exposure

And now for the reason why gardeners love to know about the queen’s cup plant: their ability to grow in very shady conditions! These plants actually dislike living in sunlight, and should receive 2 hours or less of direct sunlight per day.

Partial shade or full shade are the ideal conditions to keep this plant happy, as indicated by the fact that they tend to grow under dense forest canopies. This makes them perfect for planting under shrubs and trees!

Temperature

Though they can’t usually tolerate the temperatures of eastern North America, queen’s cup plants are perfectly content growing in in western North America because of their mild winters. They thrive when temperatures hover between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

A queen’s cup is a plant variety does not require fertilizer in order to thrive. They will be perfectly happy with having a bit of compost incorporated into the mix. Otherwise, provide your plant with a well balanced fertilizer once at the beginning of the growing season.

Pruning

Another great thing about growing queen’s cup plants is the fact that they require absolutely no pruning from you. Their small flowers, stems, and foliage will easily decay and new plants will emerge from those underground rhizomes come early spring!

How do you Propagate a Queen’s Cup Plant?

Green queen's cup foliage with a single blue berry in the summer

It is rare to find a person that is going to attempt to propagate a queen’s cup plant straight from seed. This is because a plant will take up to 4 years of maturing before it is ready to flower.

For this reason, the majority of gardeners will propagate a new specimen through root division. It is simple, fast, and pretty much fool proof. Here are some simple steps to get you started:

1. The best time of year to divide queen’s cup roots is in the early spring or late spring. This way they will be getting established right as their growth period starts.

2. Divide the root ball of an existing plant. Ensure there are enough leaves in each bundle.

3. Pick an area in your garden that has well draining, fertile soil that receives partial shade or full shade.

4. Dig a hole that is about twice as deep and just as wide as the root ball. Ensure that holes are around 6 inches apart from one another.

5. Fill in the remaining space in the holes and tamp down the soil. Water thoroughly and maintain soil moisture as the plants are getting established.

Happy planting!

Bright white queen's cup flower blooming in the spring

FAQs

Is the queen’s cup plant deer resistant?

The queen’s cup plant is moderately deer resistant. This means that although it is not the very first choice of snack for larger pests like deer, rabbits, and squirrels, it is also not the last choice.

What are the damaging agents to queen’s cup plants?

Queen’s cup plants don’t have to deal with many issues other than the fact that slugs absolutely love to nibble on their leaves.

Do you queen’s cup plants prefer shade or sun?

And now for the reason why gardeners love to know about the queen’s cup plant: their ability to grow in very shady conditions! These plants actually dislike living in sunlight, and should receive 2 hours or less of direct sunlight per day.

Partial shade or full shade are the ideal conditions to keep this plant happy, as indicated by the fact that they tend to grow under dense forest canopies. This makes them perfect for planting under shrubs and trees!

Can a queen’s cup plant be grows indoors?

A queen’s cup plant can happily grow indoors in a pot or container as long as those containers have proper drainage holes, and if they are placed in an area that receives an adequate amount of sun exposure.

What time of year does a queen’s cup flower bloom?

The queen’s cup flower will usually bloom in the late spring or early summer and last through the autumn. They will commonly blossom in late May and last for several weeks.

Do queen’s cup flowers attract pollinators?

The sweeting smelling white flowers of the queen’s cup plant are quite efficient in attracting beneficial insects and pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and wasps.

What is the preferred soil type for a queen’s cup plant?

Though queen’s cup plants can grow in all sorts of different habitats as wildflowers, there are some characteristics that their soil type can have to keep them as happy as possible.

These plants prefer to live in soil that is well draining, rich in nutrients, and light in texture. The ideal type is loamy or sandy soil.

A super easy way to achieve this soil type is by incorporating some compost to the soil at the beginning of the growing season. This will not only increase the nutrient level of the soil, but it will increase drainage as well.

Where did c uniflora get its name?

A botanist named Josef August Schultes first named this flowering plant smilacina borealis var uniflora, then adapted that name to species smilacina uniflora. It was then later described by Carl Sigismund Kunth as clintonia uniflora.

This is such a well known plant in North America that a wonderful artist and botanist named Mary Vaux Walcott donated a watercolor painting of clintonia unifloria in 1922, depicting the plant. It is currently hung in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

How often should a queen’s cup plant be watered?

Something to remember about queen’s cup plants is that they prefer to live in moist soil. This is obvious by the fact that they tend to grow in boreal forests in the Pacific Northwest, which are usually very moist areas.

It is best to make sure that your plant is receiving around 1-2 inches of water per week. If there isn’t very much precipitation within a week, they will need supplemental watering to maintain soil moisture.

Are queen’s cups annual plants or perennial plants?

Queen’s cups plants are perennial herbs, meaning that they will continue to bloom in the spring year after year as long as their ideal growing conditions can be maintained. In fact, some specimens have been known to live over 30 years!

What are the other common names for queen’s cup plants?

C uniflora has several common names. You may have heard it under bride’s bouquet, bead lily, or single flowered clintonia, but the most common is queen’s cup. The botanical latin specific epithet uniflora is in reference to the fact that they will only produce one single flower blossom!

What USDA growing zones can a queen’s cup grow in?

The queen’s cup is a native plant to the pacific northwest, but can also grow on the eastern side of North America as well as western North America. They grow extremely prosperously starting in southwestern Alberta, and their range extends towards both southern Alaska, down to British Columbia, southwestern Oregon and northwestern California as well.

When growing wild, they can often be found growing in cool montane coniferous forests. They prefer to live in moist forests with a dense tree canopy, and are often found in forests with red cedar trees, western hemlock trees, fir trees, and white pine trees.

Queen’s cup plants will be happy growing outdoors all year long in USDA growing zones 4 through 8, but should be brought indoors for the cold winter months in all other zones.

Do queen’s cup plants need fertilizer?

A queen’s cup is a plant variety does not require fertilizer in order to thrive. They will be perfectly happy with having a bit of compost incorporated into the mix. Otherwise, provide your plant with a well balanced fertilizer once at the beginning of the growing season.

What is the conservation status of the queen’s cup plant?

According to the natureserve explorer (which is a North America program dedicated to a biodiversity heritage library) the queen’s cup plant is of little to no concern regarding conservation status. It is currently at no risk of becoming extinct.