Plants - Flower Bulbs

Grow fabulous fritillaries

Sure they're finicky, but once established fritillaries flourish in your yard

Finicky, but feisty
Once planted, fritillaries prefer not to be moved. If you must move them, wait until they have flowered at least two seasons in the same place.

Divide bulbs when clumps stop producing blooms for the season and leaves have almost completely died down. Dig up the clumps with care and place on a large sheet of plastic. Gently break away soil and pick out individual bulbs. Discard any that are too small, look damaged or are diseased. When planting fritillary bulbs, make sure the hollow centre (where the previous stem arose) is on an angle; this reduces moisture that can sit in the bulb and potentially cause it to rot. Replant immediately.

All species except F. meleagris will benefit from a large handful of coarse sand or even fine gravel mixed into the soil 10 to 15 centimetres below the base of the bulb before planting. This will help keep the bulbs dry through dormant months and promote root development in fall.

Never store fritillary bulbs. When you replant established ones, prepare the new location before you dig up the bulbs. And don't buy bulbs at the end of the season for the following year. They will be desiccated and damaged and will not grow.

Fritillaries propagate by producing bulbils (mini-bulbs) that grow at the base of the original bulb. Some species also produce seed, but it would take a long time (several years) for the seeds to mature and grow.

Growing tips
Be sure to follow individual species' instructions.

• Plant bulbs as early as possible after buying them in September or early October, as they dry out quickly. Choose a sunny to slightly shady location with some wind protection. Plant in coarse-textured, well-drained soil that's rich enough to retain adequate moisture but coarse enough to allow excess water to drain away from the roots.

• Plant taller fritillaries, such as Fritillaria imperialis and F. persica, 20 to 25 centimetres deep and 25 centimetres apart. Smaller varieties such as F. meleagris should be planted 10 centimetres deep and five centimetres apart.

• In spring, water during dry spells, especially if they occur before bulbs flower.

• Apply granular bulb fertilizer in early spring once growth starts.

• Remove flower stems once flowering is finished. Don't remove foliage until it has died back completely.

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