Want a touch of the exotic for your spring flower garden? Consider fritillaria. These spring-blooming bulbs have unusual, bell-shaped flowers, and are ideal companions for tulips and daffodils. The bulbs have a skunky odor and are known to repel voles. Deer avoid both the plants and the flowers.
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 20+ cm fritillaria bulbs that will produce an impressive show of flowers the very first year.
SUN OR SHADE: Fritillaria will grow in full sun or light shade.
ZONE: Fritillaria are hardy in zones 4-8. To find your growing zone, click here.
WHEN TO PLANT: Plant fritillaria in fall, at the same time you are planting tulips and daffodils.
WHERE TO PLANT
There are many species of Fritillaria, with several very different flower styles. All should be planted in fertile, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter.
Crown imperials (Fritillaria imperalis) stand 24 to 36” tall and have lily-like foliage. Each stem displays a cluster of yellow or red-orange bells topped with a spiky green hairdo. 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. 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.
PLANTING IS AS EASY AS 1-2-3
1. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10". Dig a 6" deep hole for crown imperials (3" deep for snake's head)
2. Put the bulb in the hole (add fertilizer if you wish)
3. Cover the bulbs with soil
GROWING TIPS FOR FRITILLARIA
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.
Snake’s head fritillaria grow well in full sun, but prefer dappled shade. Unlike most spring-flowering bulbs, these fritillaria need moisture throughout the growing season. For a full, natural look, plant them in clumps of 8 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.