Early-flowering Fritillaria species and their hardiness

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sat, 08 Mar 2014 13:00:49 PST
Guy wrote:
>  I am preparing a list of all the bulbs I experimented here, in 
> alphabetical order. I have just passed letter F, anh had to confess 
> I was very disappointed with them, but as you can imagine I would 
> be ready to try again and again. I have got Fritillaria biflora 
> from one BX, they grow well , in pot for the moment, and I also 
> would like to try some more californian species, if possible to see 
> if they stand better the climate we have here.
>   So, may I ask you, according to your long experience with 
> Fritillarias, in this case, which one I could or should try  here.
>    Fritillaria imperialis of course, but aso F. persica, F. 
> raddeana, etc ..failed here, for example.
>Fritillarias are not moutain plants , do they all need cold ( we had 
>no frost this year, for example ) or constant humidity when growing?

The genus Fritillaria inhabits many different kinds of habitats in 
Europe, Asia, and North America. The species Guy mentions, 
Fritillaria biflora, is native to California but has a large range, 
and different forms can be grown well in different areas of the UK, 
Europe, and North America. If you grow it in a pot, it should be a 
deep pot. Another American species that has a very wide range in both 
latitude and elevation is Fritillaria affinis, which is available in 
Europe (I think) in a handsome sterile triploid form called 'Wayne 
Roderick' or "tristulis". I don't know what the cold requirements in 
the genus are, because we always have some frost in winter where I 
live. Some people think Fritillaria striata is a warm grower, but it 
occurs in the mountains where winters are frosty.  I believe some 
growers in the UK grow Fritillaria species in alpine houses that are 
kept above the freezing point. I have never kept them in a heated 
frame or house.

As for their moisture requirements (I think that is what Guy means by 
"humidity" -- moisture in the soil, not in the air), most of them 
flower at the time of the greatest soil moisture, but the alpine 
species would experience a dry dormancy under snow. Alpine bulbs and 
those from the far north are typically more difficult to grow well in 
snow-free, lowland areas such as mine. Some Fritillaria species, such 
as Fritillaria pluriflora in California and Fritillaria meleagris in 
Europe, are in very wet conditions at their time of flowering; the 
former's habitat dries up in summer, but I think meleagris always 
needs some moisture, which makes it a good choice for the irrigated 
border or summer-rainfall areas. Some species tolerate very dry soil 
conditions in summer, as long as they are planted deep enough. I have 
a dry and a moist bed in my bulb house and both beds contain many 
Fritillaria species whose native habitats I have studied before planting them.

Guy should not give up on the species that failed for him. If he 
bought them as bulbs, they may have been stored too dry or otherwise 
treated badly. I have never grown purchased Fritillaria imperialis 
bulbs successfully, but I have good seed-grown plants of that 
species. (They do take a long time to flower from seed.)

Good luck!
Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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