You can’t miss Fritillaria planted in a spring garden. Whether it is the charming checkered fritillary or whimsical crown imperial, these two members of the Fritillaria genus (which boasts more than 100 species) boldly separate themselves from the sea of tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils they bloom among. Crown imperial’s orange, red, or yellow blossom is topped with a tuft of foliage reminiscent of the leaves atop a pineapple, while checkered fritillary and its many relatives sport sweetly nodding cup-shape flowers on sturdy green stems. Rarely planted in home gardens, crown imperial and fritillary are both easy to grow and deserve a special space in the spring landscape.
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Garden Design Ideas
Fritillary and crown imperial stand out as stand-alone bulbs. Unlike daffodils and tulips that are most eye-pleasing when planted in large drifts of 10 or more, these strikingly different bulbs hold court in the garden solo or with a small group. Lofty crown imperial stands 3 to 4 feet tall and pairs well singly with the emerging foliage of perennial. Plant it in groups of three for a bold focal point.
Fritillary, also called checkered lily, stands about 1 foot tall and is especially attractive in grassy, naturalized plantings or along a pathway where it will catch the eye of passersby. These plants grow well in moist areas, making them a great choice for the edge of rain gardens and streamside gardens. Plant fritillary singly or in groups of three to five.
Fritillaria Care Must-Knows
Just as fritillary and crown imperial differ in their appearance, their care requirements are unique, too. The smaller fritillary grows best in full sun but will bloom well in part shade—especially if it's the dappled shade of a deciduous tree in early spring. Plant fritillary 5 to 6 inches deep and 5 to 6 inches apart in humus-rich, moist soil.
Crown imperial demands full sun and exceptionally well-drained soil. Because it's more susceptible to rot caused by wet soil than many other bulbs, this plant needs sandy soil or a well-drained rock garden. Crown imperial bulbs have a small divot at the top (where the previous year's stem grew) that makes them especially vulnerable to rot in damp soil. Plant these large bulbs 6 to 7 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches apart in the fall—placed sideways to prevent water from collecting in the divot. Although big, these bulbs are fragile. So leave them alone once they're planted, and mulch them well in anticipation of winter's colder temperatures.
Worth noting: All parts of crown imperial smell like skunk, so you may want to position them at the back of the border. The good news: This scent repels hungry critters.
More Varieties of Fritillaria
Fritillaria imperialis bears a bunch of large orange flower bells that hangs from the crown of tufted foliage on this bold plant. The blooms appear in mid-spring. The plant grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9
Fritillaria michailovskyi looks like an Easter candy; the chocolate-purple flower bells are tipped in golden yellow. The plant grows 4-8 inches tall. Zones 4-9
Fritillaria pallidiflora bears large, pale yellow flower bells that unfurl from shiny blue-green leaves. This selection loves moist soil and grows 18 inches tall. Zones 4-9
Variegated crown imperial
This variety of Fritillaria imperialis 'Aureomarginata' makes a bold statement in the spring garden. Its leaves offer yellow edges and contrast with the tropical-looking red flowers. It grows 40 inches tall. Zones 5-9
Fritillaria meleagris is much more attractive than its moniker suggests. The flowers, checked bells in maroon or purple and white, dangle from succulent blue-gray stems in late spring. The plant grows 8 inches tall. Zones 4-9
Fritillaria persica is an incredible selection with chocolate-plum-color bells that dangle from 4-foot spikes over blue-green leaves. Zones 4-9
Yellow crown imperial
This selection of Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea' offers lemon-yellow bells that unfurl and dangle from a crown of tufted foliage. This plant grows 40 inches tall. Zones 5-9
White snake's-head fritillary
Fritillaria meleagris alba bears white bells that dangle from succulent blue-gray stems in late spring. It grows 8 inches tall. Zones 4-9