Frits & Alliums in pots?

Jane McGary
Mon, 12 May 2003 19:15:55 PDT
Jennifer wrote,
>As the new catalogs begin to appear at my home and via email, I'm putting
>together a huge wish list.  I was hoping someone out there might be able to
>give me some advice about growing Allium and Fritillaria in pots.  Are there
>any of these guys particularly suited to pot culture in a zone 9 (roughly)
>garden?  Are there any that definitely will not survive pot culture?

Many small species of these genera are often grown in pots (especially in 
the UK, where they have many shows) and also in hypertufa troughs, which 
offer a bigger root run and better temperature and moisture control. (For 
information on troughs, the NARGS Book Service has several useful 

Some of the prettiest western American alliums, such as A. campanulatum, A. 
falcatum, and A. siskiyouense, are well adapted to pot culture even in a 
warm climate. I'm sure Mark McDonough can recommend more.

Numerous small Fritillaria species come from California or the shores and 
islands of the Mediterranean and would suit your climate. However, you will 
have to place the pots in a sheltered location, plunged in some substance 
that will keep the moisture and temperature constant during their dormant 
period. They won't tolerate the kind of baking they'd get in above-ground 
pots in your area, especially in sun. You could easily have frits in flower 
from January through May (F. biflora and F. purdyi, both Californian, are 
in bloom now).

I don't think there is any Allium or Fritillaria that definitely can't be 
grown in a pot, as long as you control the water regime properly and don't 
let them desiccate or boil in summer. I even have some of the big ones in 
plunged pots, though the pots are quite large. The largest kinds do best in 
plastic mesh pots where they can get their root systems out into the plunge 

One way I grow potted plants is by plunging them in sand-filled "patio 
tubs", big plastic containers that can be bought at discount stores for 
about $12 each. They are terra-cotta colored and not offensive-looking. 
They have a plug in the bottom that can be knocked out for drainage. I put 
some broken rock in the bottom, spread sand over it, set the pots on it 
(one tub holds an 8-inch clay pot in the center and 5 or 6 6-inch pots 
around it) and fill in with more sand. I keep these on my covered deck to 
protect the plants, mostly alpines, against winter wet. I also use them for 
bulbs that can't be allowed to dry out in summer, such as certain east 
Asian fritillarias and high-altitude crocuses.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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