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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here, Catherine Mansley, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, explains how to divide crown imperials:
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.
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