ALL ABOUT FRITILLARIA

Want a touch of the exotic for your spring flower garden? Consider fritillaria! These fall-planted bulbs are easy to grow and their unusual, bell-shaped flowers are good companions for tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring-blooming 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 (like the one at far left) 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 give you an impressive show of flowers.

Shop for fritillaria bulbs HERE.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS

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

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

Soil Conditions: Most spring-flowering bulbs prefer relatively dry growing conditions, especially during summer. 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 understand their different growth habits when you are deciding where to plant the bulbs.

Crown imperials (Fritillaria imperalis) grow 24 to 36” tall and, like lilies, produce all 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 spring flowerbeds. They can be planted in groups on their own, or in combination with tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring-flowering bulbs. Crown imperials grow well in shade gardens and may also be planted in meadows or open woodlands. Most gardeners treat Fritillaria imperialis as an an annual, but given 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. The bulbs produce grassy foliage and one or more stems, each with a dangling flower. The flower petals can be creamy white, pink or burgundy and typically display a checkered pattern. Fritillaria meleagris has a delicate charm that’s best appreciated up close. Plant the bulbs 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: All types of fritillaria bulbs should be planted in fall, at the same time as tulips and daffodils.

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

Planting Tips: If you are growing fritillaria imperialis as an annual, there is no need to fertilize the bulbs at planting time. For other types, you can add compost and a small amount of all-purpose fertilizer at planting time.

Crown imperial bulbs have a natural depression on top where moisture can gather. This makes them sensitive to excess moisture and more vulnerable to rot. Be sure to always plant them in well-drained soils. At planting time, adding coarse sand, finely crushed stone or perlite to the planting hole can help encourage good drainage. 

Fritillaria imperialis bulbs have a skunky odor and are said 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 try getting the bulbs to bloom again the next spring, fertilize the plants before they flower or immediately afterwards. Allow the foliage and stem to yellow 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.

To learn more, you may be interested in:

How to Plan a Spring Bulb Garden

Bloom Time Chart for Spring and Summer Bulbs

Spring-Blooming Bulbs for Shady Gardens