Early-flowering Fritillaria species and their hardiness

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:01:22 PST
A walk through the bulb house this morning was enlivened by the first 
opening flowers of a number of Fritillaria species. Most of them are 
on the "dry" side, plants from semi-arid Asian and eastern 
Mediterranean regions. They include the following:
Fritillaria raddeana
Fritillaria zagrica
Fritillaria eduardii
Fritillaria bucharica
Fritillaria obliqua
Fritillaria gibbosa
Fritillaria stenanthera (three forms)
Fritillaria striata
Fritillaria chitralensis
Fritillaria arriana
Fritillaria euboica
Fritillaria serpentinicola
Fritillaria sewertzowii
Fritillaria latifolia
Fritillaria caucasica

Well represented is the section named for the familiar Fritillaria 
imperialis (not in flower here yet): raddeana, eduardii, and 
chitralensis. The Rhinopetalum section also tends to be early, with 
gibbosa, arriana, stenanthera, and bucharica. F. euboica and F. 
serpentinicola are Greek species sometimes included in Fritillaria 
carica, which is just in bud here. The earliest American species as 
always is F. striata from the mountains of southern California. I 
grew all these plants from seed, beginning with F. raddeana in 1988 
(the original bulbs are still flowering, along with their seedlings).

We have had two spells of severe frost lasting about a week each, one 
in early December and one in early February when some of these plants 
had emerging foliage; F. striata had leaves up during the December 
freeze, when the temperature dropped one night to 17 F here. F. 
obliqua, native to the area of Athens, was in bud during the February 
freeze down to 20 F, and showed no damage. This shows that the 
literature claiming some species to be particularly tender should 
probably be looked at critically. My plants went through temperatures 
down to 20 F (minus 6 C) regularly at my former home, where I had 
them in unheated cold frames. The present bulb house is unheated and 
covered only with a transparent roof; the sides are wire mesh. The 
bulbs are in raised beds of very well drained soil.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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