There are approximately 100 different species of Fritillaria, but only three are easily available. However, all three qualify as unusual. They are the Fritillaria imperialis, Fritillaria meleagris, and the Fritillaria persica.

Fritillaria Imperialis

Fritillaria imperialis is probably the most surprising-looking spring flower you will ever run across. Each plant has a single, strong stalk, topped by large, hanging blossoms, which are crowned by a fringe of leaves.

The fringe on top is said to resemble a crown; it is for this reason that the common name for Fritillaria imperialis is "Crown Imperial".

Another impressive feature is that they can grow to be 5 feet (1.5 m) tall! They are very showy; you are guaranteed to get questions from every passer-by. They are also much appreciated for the fact that deer and rodents do not like to eat them.

The bad news: they may have an unpleasant odor. Just make sure you plant them where they can be seen, but not smelled.

Flowering time:Mid-spring
Plant height: 3 - 5 feet (0.9 - 1.5 m)
Minimum planting depth: 6" (15 cm)
Hardiness zones: With mulch: suitable for zones 4 - 7; without mulch: zones 8 - 11
Colours:Yellow, orange, and red
Shape/form:Tall strong stem supports a circle of pendant, bell-shaped flowers, topped off with a tuft of leaves.
Alternate names:Crown Imperial, Crown Imperial Lily, Stink Lily
Latin name: Fritillaria imperialis
Notes: Can be tricky to grow: absolutely essential to provide excellent drainage; plant on a bed of gravel, and surround with lots of sand. Alternatively, angle each bulb sideways to keep water from collecting in the depression at the top of the bulb.
Soil should be alkaline, and enriched with organic matter (humus).
Will grow in full sun or light shade; needs summer days with high heat.
Water well in spring; do not water in summer. Protect from wind.
Plant in beds or rock gardens. Once established, bulbs should be left undisturbed.
Example varieties: Rubra (orange-red, with purple veins), Aureomarginata (same as 'Rubra', but has creamy-yellow-edged leaves), Prolifera (same as 'Rubra', but has two rings of pendant flowers; sometimes called 'Double Crown Fritillaria'), Premier (soft orange), Lutea (yellow), Maxima Lutea (large yellow flowers), Aurora (reddish orange), Slagzwaard (deep orange), William Rex (bronze-red)

Rubra Lutea
Aurora Aureomarginata (leaves)

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Fritillaria imperialis: Crown Imperial | Fritillaria meleagris: Checkered Lily | Fritillaria persica: Persian Bells

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Last modified: October 12, 2008