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Fritillaria imperialis (Crown imperial)

Family: Liliaceae
Common name: Crown imperial

Flower color: yellow, orange-red and red

Flowering period: April - May

Average plant height: 40 inches

Planting depth to base of bulb: 8 inches

Spacing between bulbs: 12 inches

Type of bulb: true bulb

Light requirements: full sun to partial shade (some shade is particularly important in warmer climatic zones)

Landscape uses: perennial beds and borders

This is by far the most well-known species. It is also one of the earliest plants to be cultivated. Clusius introduced this majestic plant to the Netherlands as early as the 16th century. Illustrations of it date back to 1610! The plant is found in such locations as Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.

Plant these large, unpleasantly scented bulbs as early in the season as possible, and immediately after acquiring them. This is necessary because the roots will start developing inside the packaging, and this can result in damage during planting. The soil must drain quickly and thoroughly; heavy soil will definitely need the addition of extra sand. Specimens that receive what they need often continue to flower year after year in the same location, especially in climatic zones 4 - 6. Sometimes, however, a stem emerges but fails to bloom. In that case, plant new bulbs in another location, preferably among ground cover plants. The flowers have a distinctive musk-like smell and contain large drops of nectar.

Most significant cultivars

  • 'Aurora': orange-red
  • 'Lutea': bright yellow
  • 'Lutea Maxima': yellow
  • 'Rubra': deep vermilion red
  • 'Rubra Maxima': very large deep vermilion-red flowers
  • 'The Premier': orange-red
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Fritillaria imperialis (Crown imperial)