Growing Fritillaria Bulbs: How To Care For Imperial Flowers

Fritillaria bulbs, there is nothing common about the spring blooming Fritillaria.

Fritillaria bulbsPin

The Fritillaria has many common names:

  • Checked head daffodil
  • Checkered lily
  • Dropping tulip
  • Guinea flower
  • Guinea-hen flower
  • Leper lily

… and many others.

Fritillaria bulbs are from the lily family.  They are perennials, are deer resistant, have deciduous foliage, and bloom during spring.

Native to temperate regions in the northern hemisphere, Frittilaria produce cup-shaped or bell-shaped flowers that bend downward called nodding.

How To Grow Fritillaria Bulbs

Fritillaria bulbs grow well in locations with well-drained soil. Soil can be amended with 2″-3″ inches of organic material such as compost, peat moss, ground bark or decomposed manure to improve the drainage. The location should not be soggy.

Fritillaries’ thrive in a range of light conditions from full sun to partial or dappled shade. When planting a variety such as the Crown Imperial Fritillary which is said to have an unpleasant smell, consider choosing a location away from the house.

PRO TIP: Crown imperial is a startlingly different Spring Flower

Crown Imperial flower, usually bears brick-red flowers at the top of 2′ to 3′ foot stems surmounted by a tuft of leaves. They start up suddenly from the soil in early Spring.

Plant the bulbs in Fall but put them rather shallow, only 2″ to 4″ inches deep. The bulbs are rather hollow in the center and should be planted slightly on their side and surrounded with sand. Crown-imperials should not be moved when they are thriving in any spot.

The ideal situation for them is where they get the Spring full sun, with partial shade of trees the remainder of the year. The bulbs and plants have an unpleasant odor but you won’t notice it.

Planting Fritillaria Bulbs – Depth and Distance

Use well-drained soil that is either sandy or loamy. The best planting time for Crown Imperials is during the months of August and September as they will flower around May and April.

When planting bulbs follow these distance and spacing recommendations:

Checkered lilies, yellow Fritillaria, and purples bell Fritillaria- 2″-3″ inch deep and 3″ inches apart.

Crown Imperials – 5″ inches deep and 7″-8″ inches apart. This variety has a “hole” at the top center of the bulb and it should be planted facing upwards and slightly to the side.

Depending on the type of bulb, they are rounded with slight indentations at the top or small points. This side should be planted facing upwards. If the bulbs have small roots attached, use this as a determinant of which side is the bottom.

After planting, water well to gently soak the soil. Roots will form in the fall while flowers and foliage form in the spring.

Caring For Fritillaria Plants

Most bulbs require minimal care and the Fritillaria is no exception. Staking may be needed during the high winds or driving rains.

When the blossom fades away, they can be cut off down to where the foliage begins at the stem. Foliage should be allowed to die back naturally. When it has died back, clean it up to avoid diseases.

Watering Fritillaria Bulbs

Fritillaria flowers do not require special watering before and during bloom unless the spring garden is unusually dry.

It is after blooming that regular watering is required, either from rain or a sprinkler.

This is the period when bulbs are growing and storing nutrients. If weather is hot and dry, water the bulb thoroughly once a week. Avoid overwatering that leads to bulb rot.

Fertilizing Fritillaria

To assure the bulbs of good health, feed them at least once a year. Apply about 1 tablespoon of balanced granular fertilizer around each bulb after plants have bloomed, water to soak it in.

Keep fertilizer two inches or so away from the stem to avoid damaging the plant tissues.

Mulching and Weed Control

Spreading 1″ or 2″ inch layer of organic material such as shredded bark, wood chips or chopped leaves will control weed and conserve soil moisture during the growing season.

During winter, mulch insulates the soil from temperatures that fluctuate which heave the soil and disturb the bulbs. Remove the mulch during spring to allow new shoots grow easily.

Propagating Bulbs Of Fritillaria

Fritillarias naturally produce baby bulbs called offsets. If left to grow undisturbed it may lead to crowding, resulting in smaller flowers.

To avoid overcrowding, shortly after the foliage has died and the flower bulbs are dormant, dig and separate small bulbs from the parent bulbs. Replant the bulbs as described above.

No pruning is required for any of the Fritillaria varieties.

Pests and Diseases

Generally, fritillaries are disease-free. However, they are prone to slugs and lily beetles, which can be controlled using chemical and natural methods.

They are also deer resistant making them a bulb to enjoy without worries.

Fritillaria Care After The Blooming Season

When the blooming season is over, do not cut off the foliage. The leaves work to strengthen the bulb for the next flowering season.

Watering is needed during the active growth periods and about 1 inch of moisture per week. When dormant, Fritillaria bulbs like dry sites.

Where To Use The Fritillaria Plant

Fritillaria bulbs are best used in the garden or landscape when planted:

  • In a shaded rock garden
  • Grown as a potted plant
  • Incorporated into perennial beds and borders
  • Planted under trees and shrubs
  • Woodland gardens and naturalized areas

A Caution With The Fritillaria

The imperial Fritillaria has a foul odor and is a poor choice for cut flowers. Some bulbs have also been said to be poisonous and should be handled with care.

Fritillaria Varieties

Fritillaria imperialis – The crown imperial, has orange drooping bell-shaped flowers.

Other Fritillaria imperialis varieties include:

Fritillaria imperialis lutea– it produces rich gold yellow flowers.

Fritillaria meleagris – Snake’s head Fritillary much smaller, prefers rock gardens and raised beds. The flowers of Fritillaria meleagris have a chequered pattern on the petals.

Fritillaria persica – late spring bulb

Fritillaria acmopetala – the bell-shaped flower bulbs sharply flares out at the mouth. The outer part are yellowish-green with red veins and some darker patches, the inner part of Fritillaria acmopetala flowers are purplish brown at the bottom and top.

There are about 100 varieties of Fritillaria however, most are not commonly grown.

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