Fritillaria Imperialis – The Crown Imperial Fritillary

Fritillaria imperialis yellow

Fritillaria imperialis are very attractive in flower, although they are decidedly pongy when grown in a big group. Folk names for them include Crown imperial and imperial fritillary.

Walking around a woodland garden last spring, my nose picked up something foxy in the air. I thought I knew what it was, but not where it was coming from. By following my nose, I eventually tracked down this clump of flowering bulbs, a bit deeper in the woodland.

Fritillaria imperialis orange with yellow in the background

Fritillaria imperialis is a stately plant. Bell shaped flowers dangle in clusters at the top of a sturdy stem, the crown of flowers itself crested with a mop of leafy bracts. I can understand why the golden yellow ones would prompt the comparison with a crown, although their tousled character gives them a sheepish look: the llamas of the plant world, perhaps.

Fritillaria imperialis - close up of an orange flower with brown markings

I loved the distinctive brown markings on these orange plants. Sadly none of these were labelled so any identification would be a guess.

Yellow ones are commonly sold as Fritillaria imperialis ‘Lutea’ – F. imperialis ‘Maxima Lutea’ is an award winning, improved variety. Orange ones include F. imperialis ‘Maxima Rubra’, F. imperialis ‘The Premier’ and F. imperialis ‘Aurora’.

I found a supplier describing them as having ‘a distinctive musk-like odor’, and suggesting they are combined with fragrant daffodils.

All I’ll say is, good luck masking that scent!

Shared for Becky’s SquareTops – I’m claiming their quirky green crest counts as a topknot.

34 Replies to “Fritillaria Imperialis – The Crown Imperial Fritillary”

  1. I have three of these bulbs (orange flowers) but they have never flowered. As soon as the foliage appears above ground it gets eaten. I think I shall dig them up – again – and try planting them on one last spot. And if that doesn’t work then they’ll go into the compost.

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