The spring blooms of Frittilaria bring an exotic magic to the garden. It is as if the pendant bell shaped flowers are waiting to be worn by a fairy as a hat or skirt. A visit to Catherine Creek in Washington or Tom McCall nature preserve past Mosier, Oregon offer an opportunity to experience these magical flowers in the wild.
Fritillaria have an incredible menagerie of colors in patterns from solid pale yellow to dusky purple with yellow tips. The dainty F. meleagris, a native species, holds stunning purple and white checkered bells 6-8” above the soil. They pair beautifully with primroses, mondo grass or rhododendrons. The magestic F. imperalis offer a taller, bolder look with spires of orange or yellow bells, and combine well with the colorful foliage of Heuchera or feathery gold foliage of Tanacetum ‘Isla Gold’.
Since these bulbs enjoy a dry dormant season in the summer they are excellent candidates for planting under deciduous trees, rock gardens and garden beds with minimal irrigation in the summer. They add an incredibly unique look to any container or well drained garden bed, something a little different for that early spring bulb display.
Here at Portland Nursery we carry a few species potted in the spring and a larger selection of bulbs in the fall.
F. affinis - purple flowers checkered with yellow/green spots.
F. imperialis - Large bright flowers of yellow, orange, or red. Grows 3-4’ tall and 16” wide. Hardy in zones 4-7. Bulbs available in fall.
F. meleagris - Bell shaped checkered maroon, dark purple and/or murky pink. Grows 7-8” tall and 2” wide. Hardy in zones 4-9.
F. persica - lace-like leaves, bell shaped with plum and gray colored blooms. Grows 4-36” tall and 3” wide. Grows well in damp fertile soil, hardy in zones 5-9.
F. uva vulpis - Bell shaped flowers with dark brown exterior, and yellow interior. Plant as bulbs. Hardy in zones 3-10
Common Names: checkered lily, chocolate lily, mission bells, snakes head, frog cup
Origin: Throughout Europe, North Africa, Mediterranean, temperate Asia and North America
Culture: Fritillaria prefer well drained soil and full to partial sun depending on species. They thrive with moist soils while actively growing, and dry soil when dormant. Great candidates for containers.
Maintenance: Fertilize once in the fall, and once during early growing season with bone meal or bulb food mix. Fritillaria have a tendency not to bloom first year. Plant the bulb on its side to prevent the hollow middle from rotting out. Protect from moles with chicken wire, or pumice in the bottom of the hole.
Fritillaria can be propagated from seed or bulblets. Bulbs bruise easily so handle with care.
Pest and Disease: Slugs, snails, cut worms and moles Protect them from moles by laying chicken wire, or pumice underneath the bulb site. Fritillaria are also prone to root rot if soil drainage is poor.