F is for Fritillaria

Fritillaria is one of the more unusual spring blooming bulbs in the garden.  This genus has more than 100 species and is a member of the lily family.  With nodding flowers that are either brightly colored, muted or checkered, this group of bulbs is sure to attract some attention in the spring landscape.

Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). Photo courtesy of Cindy Haynes. 

Fritillaria imperialis or Crown Imperial has one of the more showy blooms.  A ring of bright orange or yellow bell-shaped, nodding flowers are crowned with a tuft of leaves.  The 3 foot flower stalks are regal-looking when several are massed together.  Crown Imperial is also resistant to deer and squirrel damage as the bulb and flowers have a “skunky” odor.  Needless to say, this is not one of the better bulbs for cut flowers.  ‘Aurora’ and ‘Rubra Maxima’ have orange-red flowers while ‘Lutea Maxima’ has yellow flowers.

White Guinea Hen (Fritillaria meleagris). Photo courtesy of Cindy Haynes. 

Guinea Hen or Checkered Lily (Fritillaria meleagris) is not malodorus and is much more delicate and understated in the garden.  This 12 to15-inch tall plant is noted for its burgundy-purple solitary flowers that are mottled with blackish squares - giving it a checkered appearance (and the common name of checkered lily).  Pure white flower forms (without checkered patterned petals) are also available. 

Increasing in popularity is the Persian Fritillaria or Fritillaria persica.  Bulbs produce 2 to 4-foot stalks with 12-30 nodding dark, plum-purple flowers per stem.  The flowers contrast nicely with the gray-green foliage.

There are also some smaller Fritillaria that are ideal for the rock garden or well-drained soils.  Fritillaria uva-vulpis and Fritillaria michailovskyi both have small, nodding burgundy purple flowers with petals tipped in bright yellow/gold.  Both stay below 12 inches tall and bloom in April or May.

Checkered Lily (Fritillaria meleagris). Photo courtesy of Cindy Haynes. 

Fritillaria are unique and durable additions to the garden.  These long-lived spring bulbs are usually not bothered by pests or disease.  Plant them in fall in full-sun to part-shade sites with well-drained soils.  Mix them with tulips, daffodils, or grape hyacinths for stunning bulb combinations.

Other F terms

Family – a hierarchy in the plant/animal classification system; several closely related Genera are grouped together in the same Family due to similar flower and/or fruit characteristics.

Fasciation – a rare, abnormal growth of stems, roots, or flowers where the affected section appears to be flattened, ribbon-like, or contorted.

Floricane – the second year stem of some types of raspberries and blackberries.  Floricanes typically produce the flowers and fruits; Growing Raspberries in the Home Garden

Floriculture – the study and production of flowering plants commonly grown in a greenhouse; poinsettias and bedding plants are examples of floriculture crops.

Flower – a reproductive structure, unique to flowering plants, where male (pollen) and female (ovary) parts facilitate pollination and fertilization for the production of fruit and seed.

Foliage – synonym for leaves

Forsythia – bright yellow, spring blooming shrub; Growing Forsythia

Frost heaving – lifting of young plants or shallow-rooted plants out of the soil due to the freezing and thawing of the soil surface

Fruit – the product of fertilization of flowering plants; often containing seeds; several categories in dry, fleshy, or dry-fleshy fruit types (Fruit Cultivars)


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