Fritillaria imperialis, the Crown Imperial

Fritillaria imperialis, the Crown Imperial, is a handsome member of the lily family that you can see growing in the Hayrick border in the University Parks. It grows from a bulb into an impressive flower, standing around a metre above the ground. It flowers in mid- to late April and provides a great accompaniment to tulips. Fritillaria imperialis has strap-like leaves in a deep, glossy, green; these have a faint onion smell and die back after flowering. In the right conditions the plants will spread out into clumps.

They like well-drained soil and rarely do well on heavier soils; this means they are ideal for deep containers or raised beds. Plant them around 30cm deep. A mulch of good quality compost in the autumn will help Crown Imperials. They like a sheltered, warm spot and may need a little support. Leave the foliage to die back completely before removing it; the bulbs are hardy so can be left in the soil over winter. They can be grown from seed or, once established, propagated through division.

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