CROWN IMPERIAL/Fritillaria Imperialis
The Crown Imperial is a rather mixed blessing as far as patio planting is concerned: the aroma which emanates from the entire plant flowers, foliage and the 15cm (6in) wide bulb – is variously described as that of musk, of skunks, ofand of wet fur, although this nose-wrinkling smell is more than compensated for by the pure majesty of the flowers. The Crown Imperial is a glorious member of the Lily family; its crown of leaves, which gives the plant its common name, appears above the cluster of blooms. When planted en masse, these plants make a wonderful sight. This plant needs careful siting: at nearly 1.2m (4ft) tall, it requires a sizeable container, and the two can be combined as points of emphasis along a pathway or border which leads further into the garden. The additional advantage of using the Crown Imperial away from the house is that after the flush of bloom in Spring, the dying foliage can be ignored and the plants left undisturbed. As well as the orange-flowered species shown here, yellow (’Lutea’) and red (’Rubra’) cultivars are available; for home-owners who can put up with the smell, these bulbs can be grown in a cold conservatory.
For a bulb from India, Afghanistan and Iran, the Crown Imperial is surprisingly frost-tolerant. It grows best in cool conditions outside.
Grow this plant where it will receive full sun for most of the day.
Water any containerized bulbs thoroughly, then allow theto almost dry before giving the next thorough watering. Once the leaves begin to yellow, allow the compost to dry and keep dry until the following Autumn.
No extra humidity is required for these Spring-flowering bulbs.
In Spring, feed the Crown Imperial once the new growth emerges; use a general-purpose fertilizer with a high phosphorus (P) content.
Pot or plant the bulbs in Autumn, handling very carefully, as soon as possible after buying. Grow in a good-quality compost, to which has been added up to a quarter by volume of horticultural sand. The Crown Imperial will grow best in compost or gardenwith a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Set the bulbs 20cm (8in) deep on a bed of horticultural sand, and 23-38cm (9-15in) apart; pack sand around the bulbs before adding more compost.
Although this Fritillaria dislikes disturbance, the bulbs should be lifted and divided every three years: do this as soon as the foliage has died down in Summer.
Viruses: Always buy good-quality bulbs: plants in the Lily family are prone to many incurable viral diseases.
Botrytis: Use a proprietary fungicide if Grey Mould appears.