Fritillaria imperialis

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 3 Professionals
Common Name: crown imperial
Type: Bulb
Family: Liliaceae
Native Range: Southwestern Asia to Himalayas
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Orange, red, or yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Deer, Black Walnut

Culture

In St. Louis, plants are best grown in deep, organically rich, medium moisture soils in sunny locations with some light afternoon shade. Does best in full sun in the northern parts of its growing range. Plant bulbs 6" deep and space 9-12" apart in fall. Bulbs should be planted sideways to prevent the stem hole in the bulb from trapping water that could cause bulb rot. Foliage dies back by early summer as the bulbs go dormant. Bulbs are large but fragile and are best left undisturbed once planted. Bulbs appreciate a good winter mulch.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Fritillaria imperialis, commonly called crown imperial, is an impressive plant that grows 3-4' tall. Each bulb produces a thick, stout, upright, ramrod-straight flowering stem which rises to 4' tall. Lance-shaped green stem leaves (to 6" long) with wavy margins appear in whorls around the lower 1/2 of the stem. Each stem is topped in spring with a crown of orange or red, drooping, bell-shaped flowers topped by a small pineapple-like tuft of leaf-like bracts. Yellow-flowered varieties are also available in commerce. All parts of the plant have a skunky odor.

Genus name is from the Latin word fritillus meaning dice box in reference to the checkerboard pattern on the petals of Fritillaria meleagris.

Specific epithet means imperial.

Problems

In addition to bulb rot mentioned above, plants are susceptible to leaf spot, rust and mosaic virus.

Garden Uses

Groupings of 6-12 at the rear of a border can be spectacular.