Fritillaria imperialis: The Crown Imperial

Fritillaria imperialis: The Crown Imperial
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Fritillaria imperialis: The Crown ImperialFritillaria imperialis, also known as crown imperial, is a striking heirloom flower that has been cultivated in gardens since at least the 16th Century. It's a quirky spring blooming bulb-as smelly as it is beautiful. In fact, they've been described as smelling foxy, skunky, musky and even rotting. They also give some people a rash when they handle the bulb or plant, which is toxic. So, why grow them? Rodents, squirells and deer don't like them.

In fact, they are repelled by the smell. Second, they are striking in color and the blooms are fascinating. They can be paired with alliums and daffodils for a virtually pest proof flower bed, or pair them with tulips to deter the pests that love to chomp on them.

Like daffodils, they like moisture in the spring and a dry soil in the summer season. Fritillaria likes a sunny location in most climates but if it's very hot, then give them some shade. Plan out their location beforehand carefully. They prefer not to be disturbed and do take at least a season or two to really get accustomed to their new home, but then they will thrive in the right conditions.

The soil should be VERY well drained, even if you need to add sand or a little fine gravel. If the soil is still a little on the heavy side, try planting the bulbs on their side. This will give them a little resistance to rot. If you do need to move them, give them at least two seasons before transplanting. Give them a chance to see what they will do, then move if necessary.

Another reason to plan carefully with fritillaria is that you must be ready to plant when they arrive. They dry out very easily. When they arrive or you buy them at the store, plant them immediately in the fall. Plant the bulbs (wear gloves just in case) about 8 inches deep, and 12 inches apart. They do well in Zones 3 to 8.

Once they bloom let the foliage die naturally before cutting off just above the ground. If you have a slope somewhere in your landscape consider this fritillaria for that location. Plant them at the top of the slope and the moisture will drain off them, which is just perfect for this variety. Do not give any water at all except what rainfall occurs.

Crown imperials are striking and regal with their sturdy stems and unique blooms. I especially love the Orange Fritillaria imperialis Aurora, which reminds me of a fairy hat with the tufts of foliage above the blooms. Consider adding this lovely spring bulb to your garden. Remember, plant it away from the windows and leave it to a special space all its own and it will do fine.



About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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