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Fritillaria - Growing Guide

Growing Fritillaria

We offer F. imperialis (crown imperial) and F. megalaris (snake’s head fritillary) and both require very different treatment and care in the garden. Both are bulbous perennials but crown imperials come from Turkey to Kashmir while snake’s heads are native to southern England and on through Europe as an attractive wild flower.

F. imperialis in its orange or yellow flowering forms need fertile well drained soil in full sun. They do well in a border dug over before planting with dung or compost and make good early season colour in a walled garden. The bulbs should be planted at a depth around four times the size of the bulb itself (say 8-10in deep). The bulbs rot easily in waterlogged locations. At Mount Congreve garden near Cork they are grown at the highest point in a huge sloping walled garden. The leaves appear above ground first as lance shaped whorls. In early summer a tall flowering spike of about 3-4ft in height with up to half a dozen bell-shaped orange or yellow pendant flowers. Above the flowers is a cluster of leaf-like bracts. Seed can be sown in autumn and transferred to the greenhouse only after germination in the spring. Alternatively the bulbs can be lifted and offsets or bulbils removed for growing on elsewhere.

F. megalaris is a species for naturalising in a damp meadow in full sun or in the grassy verges of a woodland area. They need cool damp summers to thrive and spread. Like any bulbous plant growing in grassland great care must be taken to avoid grass cutting before the plant has shed its seeds and returned to full dormancy. This species grows to only 12in including its flower spike. These have solitary or sometimes a pair of pendant flowers which are purple, pinkish-purple or white with strong purple-pink tessellations. We find that these plants do best near an elderly clump of beech trees along the drive at Burncoose. Here they have a soil with self-added leaf mould in dappled shade. They grow well alongside wild violets, wild anemone and within clumps of later flowering bluebells.


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