American Fritillaria

Jim McKenney
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 18:07:05 PDT
Thanks for the response, Jane.

You were right to criticize my watering regimen. I knew that I was being
very conservative in watering, but I had nothing on which to base an
estimate. I also made sure the bulbs were planted in a very porous medium. 

Bad experiences in the past left me with the attitude that planting frits in
our climate was a bit like planting ice cubes: once the temperatures begin
to rise, they're gone. That's the source of my extremely conservative
approach to watering. As I gain experience, I'll loosen up. 

I was especially cautious about watering at the end of the growing season:
my hunch is that it's very important under our conditions to be sure the
bulbs dry out thoroughly at the end of their growth cycle, and that won't
happen here without help from the gardener. 

Next year I'll keep a close eye on the foliage condition and water as long
as the foliage looks lively. 

What I don't know yet is how they will respond to moisture later in the
summer but after the bulbs have had a chance to dry out thoroughly. My
experience with Fritillaria purdyi suggests that any water is bad during
their period of dormancy. 

I've been checking my Fritillaria bulbs all day and in general what I see
makes me very happy. Some, such as F. raddeana, are already producing roots.
Most others show no signs of activity yet, but the bulbs look good - they
are in many cases bigger than the ones planted. So that conservative
approach to watering evidently did not cost me much if anything in bulb

You sent me some single scale bulbs of Fritillaria liliacea which have grown
very well: this year's bulbs are bigger and several already show multiple
scales. The one large Fritillaria liliacea you sent, which did not bloom,
is bigger and better, too. F. biflora and F. biflora "grayana" both did very
well, too: it was a real pleasure to turn out the pot and see the bright
creamy white, oddly shaped scales with their "big heads".

I discovered this evening that the bulbs of Fritillaria liliacea had been
stored outside during the summer - I thought I had brought all of the
American frits inside, but I missed these. As mentioned above, they look
fine. One of the things I'm uncertain about is the heat tolerance of the
American frits. I assume that the southern ones will be very heat tolerant;
I'm uncertain about the ones from areas well north of San Francisco. 

You asked if the pots had been plunged. No; the pots (they were not proper
pots, they were cut-down plastic soft drink bottles) were stood on the
surface of the ground and a makeshift frame placed around them; the function
of the frame was as much to keep the tightly packed "bottle pots" from
tipping over as to provide protection from inclement weather. As soon as the
foliage died down, the pots were moved under cover - outside at first, then
inside for most. 

I think you will have to twist my arm a bit more to get me to try plunge
beds for the American frits under our conditions. My guess is that any
American frits which spend one of our summers in a plunge bed will rot. 

Now that I've had the chance to examine them, it's obvious that I kept my
frits a bit too dry this time. But I think I was on the dry side of OK, so
to speak, for most of them. 

The Eurasian frits without exception look good. Several did not increase in
size much, others plumped up very nicely. But in every case here the bulbs
are bright, clean and seemingly ready to go. 

So I'm off to a good start, with a nice set of home-grown bulbs to boost my
confidence and a nice suite of newly received bulbs to pique my interest.
This year I'll take your advice and start watering earlier and keep it up
throughout the fall until really bad weather comes. 

But I don't think my frits have a plunge bed in their future. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where temperatures have
dropped and we've had plenty of slow, steady rain for days: everything
should be rehydrated by now. Acis autumnalis and A. valentina are in bloom

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