Virtues: We love Fritillaria imperialis for its striking, eccentric flowers that bloom in spring atop tall, sturdy stems in beautiful hues of oranges, yellows or reds. The large, unique, bell-shaped blooms dangle from a pineapple-like tuft of bright green leaf-like bracts.
Common name: Crown imperial, crown imperial fritillary
Botanical name:Fritillaria imperialis
Flowers: In spring, clusters of exotic, tubular, pendulous flowers bloom a top of robust, upright stems in radiant shades of yellows, oranges or reds, depending on the cultivar. The blooms droop alluringly from a whorl of vibrant, shiny leaf bracts, creating an imperial display true to its namesake by resembling a jewel-studded crown.
Foliage: A clump of swirling, slender, glossy green leaves surround the bottom of the tall, stout flower stem. The waxy foliage has a musky fragrance that is either favored by or repugnant for gardeners and onlookers. (The foliage will die back in summer when the plant goes dormant)
Habit: This bizarre bulb has an upright habit with its stems alone typically reaching 3 feet in height—a total height of 3 to 4 feet with a 1-foot spread.
Season: Fritillaria imperialis has heaps of spring interest with its enthralling blooms.
Origin: Native to Asia.
How to grow Fritillaria imperialis: Crown imperials thrive in fertile, well-drained soil with full sun. These large bulbs are susceptible to rot and because of this they need to be planted sideways, roughly 8 inches deep and 9 to 12 inches apart for space. Planting the bulbs sideways stops water from collecting at the neck of the bulb and rotting it; don't worry, the plant will "know" which way to send its stems and roots. Cover with a thin layer of sand or perlite to help absorb any excess moisture. USDA Zones 5–9.
Image: public domain
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Check out the Horticulture: Bulbs CD for 16 Horticulture articles that discuss the beauty and care of spring, summer and fall-flowering bulbs, and also includes great tips for winter forcing.
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