Fritillarias are the talk of the town
There are many beautiful spring flowering bulbs, but none are as striking as the Fritillaria genus. There are approximately a hundred species but only a few are grown commercially. They are naturally found around the globe from Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Great Britain, temperate Asia and North America.
Fritillaries are members of the lily family and grow from bulbs. Unlike typical bulbs that are planted pointed end up, fritillaries have a dent or hole in the top of the bulb. To prevent them from rotting, place them on their sides so water doesn’t collect in the concave part of the bulb. Plant in September and October in well-drained soil. If drainage is inadequate, the bulbs will rot in the ground.
Allow the leaves to yellow and die-down naturally. Cutting them off while they are still green prevents them from making new flowers for next year. A winter mulch improves hardiness and a summer mulch is also beneficial.
Plant smaller varieties, such as the checkered lilies, where they will be cherished and admired for their delicate appearance and unusual patterned petals. All fritillaries are suitable for sunny borders, meadows, rockeries, containers and anywhere they can spread.
Fritillaries form colonies and are easily propagated by separating individual bulbs from established clumps. Do this in late summer. Pot up any small bulbils and grow them on for a couple of years until they are large enough to plant out. Another option is to collect and sow their seeds in autumn through early winter and cover with a pane of glass. Once they have germinated, grow on in their pots for two years before planting in the garden.
Types of Fritillaries
Crown Imperial (F. imperialis) is the largest and most exotic of all the fritillarias. It makes a bold, beautiful and colourful statement that attracts attention. They are tallest of the group growing 3 to 4 feet tall. Flowers form atop their strong erect stems in May to June. Showy, fragrant orange, yellow or red bells encircle the tip of the stem with a downward nod. Leaves are lance shaped and wavy. They whorl around the stem and at the top of the spectacular flowers. Crown imperials are indigenous from Southwestern Asia to the Himalayas, and are hardy from USDA Zones 5 to 8. The do best if full sun, but tolerate light shade. Prefer an organic rich soil with good drainage. Plant bulbs on the side, 6 inches deep and 10 inches apart.
Checkered Lily, Snakes’s Head Fritillary (F. meleagris) bear remarkable nodding boxy bell-shaped flowers with a purple or white checkerboard pattern. They are indigenous to Great Britain, Europe and Western Asia and establish colonies in organic rich, well drained soils. They grow in sun, part sun and dappled shade. Flowers are usually solitary on slender stems that grow up to 15 inches tall. Blossoms throughout the month of April and as they age, their petals reflex backwards, exposing their stamens. Plant bulbs in autumn, 3 inches deep spaced 3 inches apart. USDA Zones 3 to 8.
Chocolate and Checker lily (F. affinis) (syn. F. lanceolate) is native along the Pacific coast of British Columbia, California into Nevada, Montana and Idaho. It prefers cool summers with moist rich soil that has good drainage. . Grow in full sun to partial shade. There tiny bulbs resemble rice grains and spread when conditions are suitable. Its form is variable, which means their flowers and form vary. Heights range from 4 inches to a few feet. Typically flowers are dull dark purple with a checkered mottled appearance with tint of green or yellow. As their nodding flowers age, their petals curl backwards. USDA Zones 4 to 8.
Persian lily (F. persica) as it names indicates is indigenous to Iran, Turkey and Jordan. Flowers are borne on elegant 3 foot tall spikes with pendant bell flowers in deep purple or ivory. They bloom in May to June from a base of grey-green, twisted lance-shaped leaves. A rich loam with excellent drainage is required for longevity and naturalizing. They do best in full sun. Plant bulbs 6 inches deep and space them 9 inches apart. USDA Zones 5 to 8.