Fritillaria

How to grow fritillaries

Find out all you need to know about growing gorgeous fritillaries in this practical Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Fritillaria bulbs will bring a touch of the rare and exotic to your garden with their distinctive bell-shaped flowers, some of them bold and showy, others delicate and discreet.

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Some bulbs originate in the dry mountains of Eastern Europe and some in native British meadows, but given the right conditions most types of fritillary are relatively easy to grow.

Take a look at our handy Fritillaria Grow Guide, below.

Fritillaria bulbs will bring a touch of the rare and exotic to your garden with their distinctive bell-shaped flowers.

Snakes head fritillary growing in a container
Snakes head fritillary growing in a container

Where to plant fritillaries

Depending on which species you choose, Fritillaria will grow in either well-drained soil and bright sunshine or moisture-retentive soil in dappled shade. Check the growing requirements of your chosen Fritillaria species carefully.

Planting fritillary bulbs underneath turf
Planting fritillary bulbs underneath turf

Planting fritillaries

Bulbs should be planted in September and October. Plant the large bulbs of Fritillaria imperialis deeply to ensure flowering – around 30cm below the surface.

Follow some bulb planting tips from Monty Don.

Fritillaria imperialis 'Crown Imperial'
Fritillaria imperialis ‘Crown Imperial’

Looking after fritillaries

Allow the foliage to die down completely after flowering. Fritillaria meleagris will naturalise in grass if bulbs are left undisturbed. For the larger, showier types of fritillary, mulch in spring when the first shoots appear and feed with tomato fertiliser before flowers appear.

Fritillaria affinis
Fritillaria affinis

Propagating fritillaries

Fritillaries can be propagated by seed. Sow in autumn under glass. Once germinated, grow seedlings on for two years before planting out. Alternatively, divide established clumps of Fritillaria imperialis in late-summer by splitting off and potting on the small bulbils around the edge of the bulb.

Follow our guide to dividing crown imperials.

Fritillaria sewerzowii
Fritillaria sewerzowii

Fritillaries: problem solving

Fritillaries are relatively trouble-free, although being part of the lily family, they’re susceptible to the voracious lily beetle. The best method of protection is to remove the bright red beetles by hand as soon as they’re spotted.

Slugs and snails will also enjoy the foliage so take the usual precautions.

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Fritillaria persica
Fritillaria persica

Fritillaries to grow

  • Fritillaria meleagris RHS AGM – also known as snake’s head fritillary, this species native to Britain and northern Europe, is quite unique. The delicate checkerboard bell-shaped flowers, purple or white, appear in spring. In the wild it’s found in damp meadows, but it can be grown in containers, as well as spring borders or wildflower meadows
  • Fritillaria imperialis – crown imperials are the biggest and boldest of the fritillaries, reaching up to 1.2m in height, with large orange flowers appearing under a spiky crown of leaves in April/May. Bulbs can take a season to establish. For best results grow in well-drained soil, ideally on a bed of gravel, in full sun
  • Fritillaria affinis – the chocolate lily is almost extinct in the wild but is becoming a popular garden plant. It’s native to the Pacific coast of North America, from California north to British Columbia and east to western Idaho. Fritillaria affinis bears dark purple-black flowers from mid- to late spring. It thrives in moist but well-drained soil in sun to partial shade
  • Fritillaria persica – in spring, Persian fritillaries send up 90cm spires of grey-green leaves with dark purple bell-shaped flowers, appearing along the stem. They’re very attractive perennial bulbs that need a sunny location, and look good with other lower-growing perennials
  • Fritillaria raddeana – grows up to 1.5m with pale green flowers