Fritillaria

Even the so-called stink lily variety is a gorgeous plant.


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Fritillaria, commonly called fritillary, has been maligned because one of its more than 100 species emits a musky scent and bears the common name stink lily.

Don't judge all fritillaria by this standard. (In fact, the so-called stink lily, shown, is a gorgeous plant.)

Species of fritillaria range in height from 3 inches to 4 feet. Early-spring bloomers, fritillarias usually stay in flower for more than two weeks.

Learn more about beautiful bulbs such as endymion.

Latin Name: Fritillaria imperialis Common Name: Crown-imperial, stink lily Zone: 5-8 Description: The largest of the fritillary family, crown-imperial grows 2 to 4 feet tall and produces foliage-capped clusters of nodding blooms. Although the blooms emit a musky odor, which earned the plant the unpleasant moniker of stink lily, don't let this deter you from including crown-imperial in your garden. Its stellar height and vivid colors make it an excellent bedding selection. Planted in groups of three to six plants, the imposing crown-imperial holds court above smaller bulbs. The red-orange variety 'Aurora' is spectacular. 'Lutea,' an all-yellow variety, also is impressive.

Latin Name: Fritillaria meleagris Common Name: Guinea-hen tulip, checkered lily, snake's-head lily Zone: 4-8 Description: The unusual appearance of this fritillary species has spawned such descriptive names as guinea-hen tulip (comparing the checkered petals to the mottled feathers of a hen) and snake's-head lily (for its nodding bloom). The 6- to 8-inch-tall plants produce delicate bell-shaped maroon or cream blooms. In the wild, this species gravitates toward shaded areas and riverbanks. It naturalizes well and is also a good choice for rock gardens. Fritillaria meleagris 'Alba' is an all-white variety.

Latin Name: Fritillaria michailovskyi Zone: 4-9 Description: The nodding yellow-and-purple flowers of F. michailovskyi are a charming addition to any garden. In sun or partial shade, F. michailovski appears early in spring and grows up to 8 inches tall.

Latin Name: Fritillaria persica Common Name: Persian fritillary Zone: 4-9 Description: The long, straight stems of this fritillary are lined with many bell-shaped brownish-purple flowers. Loving full sun, these plants grow to 30 inches tall. They are magnificent paired with the crown-imperial but are more sweetly fragrant.

Location: Full sun to part shade (shade during hottest part of the day) When to plant: Fall General Instructions: Plant fritillaria bulbs as soon as they are available from your garden center because the bulbs tend to dry out quickly. Taller fritillaria, such as crown-imperial and F. persica, should be planted 4 to 6 inches deep in well-drained soil, with 8 inches of space between bulbs. Smaller varieties such as F. meleagris should be planted 4 inches deep and 2 inches apart.

In the spring when the shoots have emerged, fertilize lightly. Fritillaria bloom best if left undisturbed. Once the blooms are spent, allow the foliage to die back naturally. To propagate, lift and divide the bulbs in the summer by removing the small bulbs from around the large one and replanting.

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