Fritillaria outside

mel a

Article Growing Fritillaria Outside

Blog wittten for Fennel and Fern visit their brilliant web site or on twitter @fennelandfern How to Grow Fritillaria Outside. By Kevin Pratt

I am now sure I have grown all the Fritillaria species that’s ever been in cultivation. A bold opening statement and one that I’m careful to think about first, but while I held the National collection for seventeen years and grew over one hundred species, and have now, over the last ten years added to my experience with a number of special rarities from Asia and America, I can safely assume I have tried to grow all the Fritillaria species in cultivation. The truth though is that over one third of the one hundred Fritillaria are not easy to grow, they require a great deal of time and are best held in specialist collections. Another third are either too expensive or are already in specialist collections, and these specialist growers just never sell or part with their bulbs. However that does leave a field of thirty Fritillaria species, that we as gardeners can grow outside. These hardy Fritillaria can be reasonably purchased, then following a few rules will thrive and quickly bulk-up in our gardens. There are of cause top-tips and rules. There are also a number of changes to words written in my book in 1997 “Kevin Pratt and Michael Jefferson-Brown The Gardeners Guide to Growing Fritillaries” A lot of Fritillaria experience has been gained over the last fifteen years since publication and I feel the time has come to discuss a few lessons learnt. During the spring last year 2011 It was possible to count thirty two species of Fritillaria growing outside in my garden. One American Fritillaria species, eight Asian species and twenty three European species. I am going to leave aside the half which are particular to soil, site and winter conditions and here, deal solely with twenty very easy Fritillaria. They are the Fritillaria species, acmopetala, camschatcensis, eduardii, elwesii, graeca, hermonis, imperialis, Kurdica, latakiensis, meleagris, messanensis, pallidiflora, persica, pontica, pudica, pyrenaica, raddeana, thunbergii, uva-vulpis and whittallii. Small Fritillaria F. graeca F. hermonis up to 30cm F. kurdica F. pudica Medium Fritillaria F. acmopetala F.elwesii F.latkiensis F.meleagris 30cm – 60cm F. messanensis F. pontica F. pyrenaica F. whittallii Tall Fritillaria F. eduardii F. camschatcensis F. imperialis F. pallidiflora over 60cm F. persica F. raddeana F. thunbergii F. uva-vulpis

acmo 194

Please allow me to first deal with moisture, because over the last ten years it has driven me close to madness. I still after twenty years hear journalists, authors and gardeners wrongly bleat on about Fritillaria requiring wet meadows. Most of these writers have little or no Fritillaria growing experience and borrow written material from one or two badly written dated articles. Fritillaria are not aquatic bulbs, they will sit in a state of animation in wet soil, they will not develop or advance in wet soil, they only begin growth after the water has subsided and air is again present in the soil. In the wild Fritillaria struggle in wet soil, they are forced by nature and man to grow in wet meadows, but this is NOT the ideal growing condition. Fritillaria need a well drained, airy fertile soil. At my house in Stockport 1990-2000 my Fritillaria grew well in sandy loam soil, but much better here in South Manchester 2000-2012 a good leaf mould over clay soil. So, tip number one is, Fritillaria require fertile well drained soil, preferable moist (not wet) in the spring, NOT wet meadows.


I have spent thousands of pounds on Fritillaria, I’ve lost count of how many thousand bulbs I’ve bought, garden centres, flower shows, Dutch wholesale, plant fairs, private hands and specialist collections. Often buying bulbs to further my research or with an aim to complete a full Fritillaria collection. In my experience, you are absolutely, categorically wasting your time and money buying dried bulbs in autumn. Wait, there is a difference between green freshly lifted autumn bulbs and dried bulbs. Some nurseries sell freshly lifted, clean (green) bulbs, which are beautiful, these will grow healthy roots and establish quickly during the winter. However Dry, brown bulbs in sawdust are dead. You may as well put your foot on them they are dead. This statement is going to annoy a lot of selling growers, well I say “stop selling dry dead bulbs” in open boxes in autumn. Another good time for buying Fritillaria is in the spring. Fully grown, flowering plants from the shows are already established and make a brilliant addition to the garden. You also can see the colours in spring and the full height of the Fritillaria, a clear advantage over buying during the autumn. So tip number two is buy good stock, live green, growing bulbs in the autumn or established live plants in the spring, not dry bulbs in sawdust.

Where should the Fritillaria be planted ? There are pointers to follow. Take clear notes of the height, the plants don’t want to be swamped by summer foliage. Nether do the plants want to be grown solitary. Most of our easy Fritillaria come from Scrub (shrubby) environments. My best Fritillaria have always been seen growing with company, other herbaceous plants and under deciduous shrubs. Fritillaria will grow in grass, but the grass must; must be poor fescue and not a vigorous ryegrass. You should also understand that the Fritillaria in grass will always be less presentable to those growing in the garden borders, they may look natural in grass, but will not be flourishing. Tip number three is grow Fritillaria in the borders with herbaceous or shrubs, grow them with some other plant root company.


A further problem I’ve encountered is planted Fritillaria in the wrong place and gardeners constantly moving them around. Also gardeners pulling up weeds and not seeing the Fritillaria bulbs wrapped around the roots, hoeing, weeding, hoeing, weeding. Tip number four, plant the Fritillaria and leave them, Fritillaria love ‘none gardeners,’ if they are in the wrong place, tough, buy some more. Well I think that has covered all the basics. If you follow these four Fritillaria growing rules you can grow any of the above twenty Fritillaria. All twenty are easy and you could progress to a few more, but be careful, you just may get a little hooked on these beautiful bulbs. How sad will you sound if you tell your gardening friends you have twenty Fritillaria species growing in your garden.

Kevin Pratt, a garden speaker for nearly thirty years. A Self employed, hands on gardener, with a hobby for growing rare plants. Three RHS GOLD medals, floral marquee 2004, 2006 and 2008. Available for gardening talks to clubs across the U.K.


Article / Blog wittten for Fennel and Fern visit their brilliant web site or on twitter @fennelandfern

One thought on “Fritillaria outside

  1. Love this article. Relate to the agony AND the resultant maturity on choosing species wisely. Thanks for the tips on increasing chances of growing Fritillaria. I have some that flourish and you’ve helped me understand why. Must admit that I’ve spent a few bucks this season on species which -to my consternation- do not appear in your ‘easy’ list. F. persica? F. muttica? No? Apparently, I still have some gardening maturing to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s