A Fascination of Fritillaries.

There are more more than 100 species of fritillaries and they are all irresistible, unfortunately many of them are tricky to grow. There are some that I have tried and lost.

I grow Fritillaria  michailovskyi   fresh every year in a pot  because it is so pretty. I might risk planting it outside this year as I never seem to be able to keep it in the greenhouse. It comes from the mountainous regions of Turkey. I love its shiny, red bell-shaped flowers edged in bright yellow.

Fritillaria michailovskyi

 Fritillaria stenanthera needs the protection of a greenhouse or cold frame and even thought I nurtured it in a pot, I still managed to kill it.

Fritillaria stenanthera

Another beauty which I lost is Fritillaria pallidiflora, but to be fair this could be because I kept digging it up as I moved house four times in three years and the poor thing probably got dizzy; I can’t blame it, so did I.

Fritillaria pallidiflora

Not only have I lost this next one but I cannot remember its name, but I think it is Fritillaria conica. The friend who gave it to me said it comes from Southern Greece so perhaps it got frostbite.


But  fortunately, there are easy ones too. I always thought that this next one was called Fritillaria verticillata but I have discovered that this is a synonym and the correct name is Fritillaria thunbergii. Whatever its name, it is gorgeous and the clump gets bigger every year. With the long tendrils it looks like a climber and in the wild these tendrils are used to hold the plant steady where it grows  in long grass. The bell-like flowers are cream with green veining. I believe they are grown in China and Japan as a remedy for coughs. I would rather put up with the cough and enjoy the flowers. It is easy to look after as it seems to thrive on neglect and resents a rich diet.

Fritillaria thunbergii

Fritillaria persica is an impressive sight as it grows so tall.  It has beautiful dark purple bell-shaped flowers and it looks like a giant Grape Hyacinth. If you can find the cultivar ‘Adiyaman’ you  will get a more substantial plant and more reliable flowering.

Fritillaria persica ‘Adiyaman’

And what about the exotic Crown Imperials which are in every garden centre? They smell of fox, but never mind, they are very beautiful.



I always think the long dangling stamens look like little dancing men with the  anthers forming the shoes.

If you look inside the flowers you can see delicate veining and the  the nectories look  just like eyes.

Fritillaria acmopetala is a pretty thing with quite large flowers with slightly reflexed petals. They are striped green and reddish brown. It clumps up quite well.

Fritillaria acmopetala

The bizarrely named Fritillaria uva-vulpis which means ‘fox-grape’ comes from Iraq and Iran. I have read that it needs a hot dry summer and is best kept in a pot. It grows quite happily in my garden and the clump has got bigger.

Fritillaria uva -vulpis

I would love to say that this lovely group of Fritillaria pyranacia is in my garden. But it is not. My friend ‘M’ who has the greenest fingers in Suffolk grew it from seed. I shall be begging some seed so that I can try it too. Fritillary seeds are best sown when they are fresh and the seeds should be covered with a layer of grit. The downside is that they can take 5 to 6 years to bloom. But still they are worth the wait.

Fritillaria pyrenaica

I will finish with what many consider to be the queen of the fritillaries, our native Fritillaria meleagris, the Snakes Head fritillary which is easy to find and seeds around if it is happy.

Fritillaria meleagris

The checker board pattern is sometimes dark wine-coloured and sometimes pale pink.

Fritillaria meleagris

And you can get a pure white one called ‘Aphrodite’. On this one the two flowers have fused to make one very large one.

Fritillaria meleagris ‘Aphrodite’

It is not certain that Fritillaria meleagris is a native but it has been flourishing here for centuries. It used to grow in abundance on flood plains and meadows in the south of England. We are lucky that we have two fritillary meadows in Suffolk; the Fox Fritillary Meadow in Framsden and Mickfield Meadows. They are both protected and looked after by Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Gerard called them  ‘Ginny-hen Floures’ or ‘Checquered Daffodilssic.  He admired them just as much as we do and said they ‘are greatly esteemed for the beautifying of our gardens, and the bosoms of the beautifull’. Oh I don’t know about the second bit, my fritillaries aren’t going to find their way on to any bosoms.

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54 Responses to A Fascination of Fritillaries.

  1. croftgarden says:

    You are such a wonderful plantswoman that I know you’d have an impressive collection of fritillaries. Most of ours stay in the alpine house but in the autumn I rashly planted some F. persica and F. imperialis in the garden. They have survived and will flower this year but whether than survive and flower again is doubtful. I may try others outside, but as you observed growing them from seed to flowering size is a slow process and bulking out the stock will take a whil.

  2. What an interesting, informative and beautifully illustrated post, your collection is gorgeous. Thanks for suggesting trying them in pots, I wonder what sort of compost they prefer.

  3. Such a beautiful collection. I really enjoyed seeing them all.

  4. mrsdaffodil says:

    Beautiful collection! I will return to this post in future when I’m struggling to identify one of the fritillaries in my garden. The labels always seem to get lost. Great title for the post, too.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    An impressive collection of fritillaries, Chloris. There certainly are a lot of them!

  6. Kris P says:

    I laughed at your comment that you’d rather endure a cough than cut your precious flowers to concoct a remedy but that is SO indicative of a plant fanatic! I had no idea there was such diversity within the Fritillaria genus. Although you occasionally see tulips here (grown as annuals), I’ve never ever seen Fritillaries. I pulled out my western garden guide and was surprised to find that they do have a listing there but all, even one described as a California native (F. biflora), grow well outside my climate zone. Coastal Northern California is more hospitable it seems.

    • Chloris says:

      I didn’ t realise that there is a fritillary native to California. I have never heard of this one. I just looked it up and it is very pretty with its chocolate brown bells. Is it too dry where you are?

  7. My persicas, despite having big bulbs, have refused to flower this year. I am letting them build up their energy in the hopes that I can persuade them to flower next spring. Crown Imperials are my favourites. I could write a book about the grief the smell has caused me. The police were called to my office once, because I had a delivery of the bulbs which someone in the post room thought was a consignment of cannabis. On another occasion a delivery driver refused to hand them over as he believed they were contraband. I also upset my entire office one autumn because I left a box of F. ‘William Rex’ bulbs under my desk for a fortnight whilst I was on holiday and no-one could work out where the abhorrent foxy smell was coming from. Oh how I laughed!! Actually, I quite like the smell now I am accustomed to it.

    • Chloris says:

      Have you got your persicas in a sunny spot? They like to be baked.
      I love your stories about the problems that the fox smell has caused you. You must have been popular leaving bulbs in the office for a fortnight! The smell is very strong. I can’ t say I like it but the flowers are so beautiful.

      • Yes, I let them bake in the greenhouse all summer before repotting them. Where I had much greater success in reflowering bulbs this spring is with the tazetta daffodils, most of which produced enormous bulbs last year and have bloomed spectacularly this spring. You win some and lose some!

  8. I go for JI no.2 or 3 with lots of fine grit added. They seem happy enough with that.

  9. How wonderful they all are, thanks for showing them. I need to have some imperialis for next year.

  10. Wow. So many beauties. I enjoy seeing these when I’m visiting, but I don’t know anyone who grows them here. I have a friend in North Carolina who tried F. meleagris in a damp spot. The foliage returned from year to year, but they rarely bloomed.

  11. sueturner31 says:

    A beautiful selection, I love them all. F, Persicas also refuses to flower for me and the crown imperial flowered for two years then nothing for the next three. But the snakes head are really reliable and self seed…

  12. Chloris says:

    Fritillaria persica needs to be baked by the sun and the Crown Imperial needs to be well fed. I give it tomato feed in the growing season.

  13. Brian Skeys says:

    I can put up with the smell in exchange for their beauty. Which is not something I would say about everything!

  14. snowbird says:

    Hahaha….loved the finale….delighted that your Frits are safe from chesty [see what I did there?] coughs!!!
    I must say, I’m obsessed with these adorable creatures, I have one growing at the moment that is all spiky leaves with a tiny white flower head, I have no idea which one it is, but would love to know.
    I’m delighted to have the fox-grape one too, albeit planted/stolen by squirrels! I think I’ll be visiting your place this time next year to admire/ steal some of your charming beauties!

    • Chloris says:

      They are fascinating aren’ t they? Perhaps you have a white Fritillaria meleagris.
      It would be lovely if you would visit any time Dina, I would love to meet you.

  15. Flighty says:

    An interesting post and lovely pictures, but I have to admit that I’m not keen on these flowers. xx

  16. homeslip says:

    Another wonderful post Chloris, thank you for all these treasures, I honestly had no idea there were so many. I always think of them as damp meadow dwellers as in Magdalen water meadows in April but of course they are part of the lily family so growing fox grape in a pot could be a possibility for me. Our dampish meadow at the allotment has started to move, just got to keep the council mowing men away from it this year. The Crown Imperials were looking wonderful in the walled rose garden at Polesden yesterday, and their scent is something else entirely.

  17. pbmgarden says:

    Thanks for this enlightening and entertaining introduction to a plant I find rather mysterious. Seldom see it here. The Fritillaria persica is a beauty. Hope things are going well with you. /Susie

    • Chloris says:

      I wonder why you don’ t have them much over there.
      Things are fine here thank you Susie, we are having some wonderful weather. I have got behind with blogging because I am having trouble with my tablet. It only holds the power for about an hour even when it is plugged in, so I have to ration my commenting on blogs. I am hoping to get a new one soon.

  18. rusty duck says:

    I’m relieved some of them are tricky, having thought it was just me. Or one of my resident rodents. My favourite was Fritillaria nigra, which is like meleagris but darker, a dark brown checker board. RIP.

    • Chloris says:

      Rodents are a pest and of course pheasants enjoy pulling the heads off. The Vicar has got distracted by his courting this year and so my fritillaries are doing well so far.
      I haven’ t come across Frit nigra, it looks beautiful.

  19. I love the appearance of Fritillaria thunbergii and I’ve never seen it before, so I’ll be looking out for the bulbs.

  20. Je n’ai pas cette variété dans mon jardin mais il me semble que je l’ai déjà vue pousser dans d’autres jardins. Les fleurs durent longtemps ? Bonne fin de WE

  21. Chloris says:

    Oui, les fleurs durent assez longtemps. Elles sont tellement belles.
    Il fait beau içi, le soleil brille, les fleurs sourient et moi aussi.

  22. Annette says:

    So true, I’m quite obsessed by them actually but a lot of them are pretty tricky to grow. I’ve got Adiyaman in pots this year. Yours are just wonderful, they must love you.

  23. Bodger says:

    Beautiful, thank you Choris. I fear that I failed with most of the Fritillaries that I tried, because I misted them with my hot breath and bent them under the weight of my expectations. F. meleagris holds on by its fingernails, despite my sand. Others bought and planted with love, have disappeared into legend as expensive lessons. Your post made me want to try again.

  24. I’m afraid I don’t grow a single Fritillary – but you;re right, they are fascinating. If I could grow just one it would be the orange Crown Imperials. I like F. acmopetala also. Very impressive selection of Fritillaries.

  25. Gill Heavens says:

    Absolutely wonderful! I also love fritillaries and have tried uva-vulpis (always wondered what that meant), crown imperials and the snakes head. In a pot in our garden we have F. persica, which I noticed last week had been completely stripped of any foliage. Prime suspects, the molluscy ones. Lovely photos and a great education. Thanks.

  26. smallsunnygarden says:

    Have so enjoyed your post! I grew F. michailowsky successfully in the Midwest and succeeded in losing the lovely persicaria after only one season. Looking over your selections here, I can’t help wondering whether one or two of the Mediterranean species might be worth a try here in the desert… a long shot, but you’ve just reminded me how very pretty they are!

  27. They are all so pretty. I love this post, in part because it’s the gardening version of “win some, lose some”. Except you won a lot more than you lost. I didn’t even know that fritillaria came in such a variety of flowers.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes there are so many beautiful frits, unfortunately many of them are really difficult, but still a challenge is part of the fun of gardening.

  28. Cathy says:

    Really interesting post, as always, and such an interesting range of comments too. I have given up trying to get uva vulpis to return, having assumed it was slugs, and not sure if I can be bothered growing it in a pot. You have encouraged me to add crown imperials to my bulb list this year though and I might try F persica too – thanks Chloris!

  29. Lavinia Ross says:

    A beautiful and varied species! I have never tried growing them. Your post was very informative, and I enjoyed all the photos.

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