Planting and care of Fritillaria
Hardy bulbs which are widely distributed in the North Temperate Zones. They belong to the Lily family, Liliaceae, and have bell-shaped pendent flowers, most of which are curiously marked with streaks or blotches of various colors. There are two distinct groups of Fritillarias. The Crown Imperial (F. imperialis) grows about 3 ft. high and bears yellow, orange-red or red flowers in clusters on the tops of the stems. The Meadow or Snake's Head Fritillaries average 10 in. in height and bear their flowers singly at the ends of the stems. The name Fritillaria is derived from fritillus, a chessboard, and alludes to the checkered coloring of the flowers.
The Crown Imperial. The tall kinds, F. imperialis and its varieties, require deep, rich soil. The site is prepared by digging out the topsoil to the depth of 12 in. and forking well-decayed manure into the subsoil. The topsoil is then replaced and the bulbs are planted 6 in. deep and 8 in. apart, in October. The position should be shaded or at least sheltered from the midday sun. The bulbs should not be disturbed so long as they bloom well, for they become established rather slowly.
For the Rock Garden. The dwarf kinds are ideal for cultivating in the rock garden. They should be planted in October, 6 in. apart and 3 to 4 in. deep. A slightly shady position is required and the soil should be sandy loam. The bulbs must not be disturbed unnecessarily. Fritillarias can also be cultivated in pots. They are potted in October, one bulb of the large-flowered kinds being placed in a 6-in. pot and three bulbs of the smaller kinds in a 5-in. pot. The pots of bulbs are kept in a cold frame during the winter and brought into a very cool greenhouse to flower in the spring. The soil is kept moist until the flowers have withered, when water is gradually withheld, and when the foliage has died down the soil is kept dry until the autumn.
The Snake's Head Fritillaries may be naturalized in grass and in open spaces among trees and shrubs; there they are very attractive in April.
Propagation is principally by offsets. The smaller bulbs are either potted or are planted in a reserve border in October. Plants may also be raised by sowing seeds in pots of sandy soil as soon as they are ripe. The pans are covered with a pane of glass and set in a cold frame until germination takes place. When the seedlings are large enough for transplanting they are pricked out into boxes and eventually transplanted to the open ground. Seedlings take from four to six years to produce flowers.
The Best Kinds. F. imperialis (Crown Imperial), 3 ft., yellow, April; there are several varieties including those having red and orange-red flowers. F. Meleagris (the Snake's Head), 12 in., purple, April; there are also numerous varieties of this kind, with flowers which range in color from purple to silvery-gray.
Other notable low kinds are: F. lanceolata, 2 ft., purple and yellow; F. pallidiflora, 9 in., pale yellow; F. pudica, 6 in., yellow; F. pyrenaica, 18 in., purple; F. recurva, 12 in., yellow and scarlet; and F. pluriflora, the Adobe Lily, 12 in., pinkish-purple. All bloom in spring.