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ALL ABOUT FRITILLARIA

Want a touch of the exotic for your spring flower garden? Consider fritillaria! These spring-blooming bulbs are easy to grow and their unusual, bell-shaped flowers are good companions for tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring bulbs.

START WITH A BETTER BULB

When you compare two fritillaria bulbs side by side, it’s easy to see differences in quality. Bigger bulbs contain more stored food energy and will fuel the growth of a stronger plant with larger or more abundant blooms. Longfield Gardens supplies top size bulbs that will produce an impressive show of flowers.

Shop for fritillaria bulbs HERE.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS

Sun or Shade:  Fritillaria will grow in full sun or light shade. Fritillaria meleagris prefers dappled shade.

Hardiness Zone: Fritillaria are hardy in zones 4-8. To find your growing zone, click here.

Soil Conditions: Unlike most spring-flowering bulbs, fritillaria need moisture throughout the growing season. They should be planted in fertile, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter.

WHERE TO PLANT

There are several different Fritillaria species available for home gardens. It’s important to know their growth habit when you are deciding where to plant the bulbs.

Crown imperials (Fritillaria imperalis) stand 24 to 36” tall and, like lilies, they produce their foliage directly on the stem. Each bulb produces one stem, topped with a cluster of yellow or red-orange bells and a spiky green topknot. These unusual-looking plants add color and excitement to perennial gardens and flowerbeds. They can be planted alone or in combination with tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring-flowering bulbs. Crown imperials are ideal for shade gardens and for planting in woodlands. Most gardeners treat these bulbs as annuals, but in the right growing conditions the bulbs may return or even multiply.

Snake’s head fritillaria (Fritillaria meleagris), also known as guinea hen flowers, are 12-15" tall, have grassy foliage and produce one or more large, dangling bells with no topknot (see photo at bottom of page). Their petals can be creamy white, pink or burgundy and typically display a checkered pattern. Snake’s head frittilaria have a delicate charm that’s best appreciated up close. Plant them in flowerbeds and borders, rock gardens, woodland gardens and damp, grassy meadows. Snake’s head frittilaria prefer growing in dappled shade, though they will also grow quite well in full sun.

Michael's flower (Fritillaria michailovskyi) has grassy foliage and nodding bell-shaped flowers that are maroon with golden yellow edges. They grow about 8" tall and need well drained soil. Ideal for rock gardens.

HOW TO PLANT FRITILLARIA

When to Plant: Plant fritillaria in fall, at the same time you are planting tulips and daffodils.

Depth and Spacing: Plant crown imperials 6” deep. Fritillaria meleagris and michailovskyi should be planted 3” deep.

Planting Tips: Like other bulbs, fritillaria do not need to be fertilized to put on a good show the first spring after planting. If you want the bulbs to come back in future years, enrich the soil at planting time by adding compost and all-purpose fertilizer. 

Crown imperial bulbs are somewhat vulnerable to rot, so they should always be planted in well-drained soils. At planting time, adding coarse sand, finely crushed stone or perlite to the planting hole will help encourage good drainage. The top of the bulb has a natural depression where moisture can gather. Planting the bulb slightly on its side may help keep it drier. 

Fritillaria bulbs have a skunky odor and are known to repel voles. Deer avoid both the plants and the flowers.

For a natural look, plant Fritillaria meleagris in groups of 6 or more bulbs.

CARING FOR FRITILLARIA AFTER THEY BLOOM

Most gardeners grow crown imperials as annuals. After flowering, you can simply dig up the bulbs and discard them in a compost pile. If you want to encourage the bulbs to naturalize and return next season, fertilize the plants before they flower or immediately afterwards. Allow the foliage to wither naturally and then cut off the flower stalk at ground level.

In fertile, well-drained, moist soil, snake’s head fritillaria will usually multiply and come back to bloom again each spring. To encourage these bulbs to perennialize, fertilize the plants before they bloom or immediately afterwards and ensure the bulbs don’t completely dry out during summer and fall.