How to Grow Fritillaries

Updated on January 30, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Guinea Hen Flower growing in my garden.  I love the checkered pattern on the flowers.
Guinea Hen Flower growing in my garden. I love the checkered pattern on the flowers. | Source

If you are looking for something different for your spring/early summer display, you should consider the Fritillaria family. They come in a variety of sizes, colors and bloom times.

What are Fritillaries?

Fritillaries (Fritillaria spp) are bulbs with pendant flowers that bloom in the spring or early summer depending on the variety. They range in size from 8 inches to 3 feet. My personal favorite is the Guinea Hen flower (F. meleagris) with its purple checkered flowers. Most popular are the Crown Imperials (F. imperialis) which grow to a statuesque three feet and come in either orange or yellow. Other fritillarie species have columns of pendant flowers in white, green and even a purple so dark that it looks black. They all share one virtue: deer don't like them. In fact, the Crown Imperials emit an odor that many people liken to a fox. I've never smelled a fox. To me, it smells of skunk.

Crown Imperial growing in the shade cast by my shed.
Crown Imperial growing in the shade cast by my shed. | Source

The name, fritillarie, is from the Latin word for a dice-box (fritillus) which refers to the checkered pattern of the flowers of some of the species.

Fritillaries are Poisonous

Fritillaries are not edible. They contain alkaloids that are poisonous to both animals and people. There are a few native species that if prepared carefully can be eaten and were, in fact, eaten by the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. However, those are not bulbs that we grow in our gardens. Those bulbs originated in Europe and Asia. The bulbs that we grow with the attractive flowers should only be enjoyed in our gardens and not on our dinner plates.

How to Grow Fritillaries

Fritillaries are native to the Northern Hemisphere, specifically the temperate regions such as the western North America, southwestern Asia and the Mediterranean. They are hardy in growing zones 4 through 8. They prefer partial afternoon shade which will extend their blooming period to two to three weeks.

Fritillaria bulbs are rarely seen in big box stores and garden centers. That's because they don't live long out of the ground. You should order them from a catalog or online and plant them immediately when you receive them. If you delay planting them, the bulbs will dry out and die.

The bulbs are susceptible to rot so drainage is very important. Plant them on their sides to prevent water from collecting on them. Smaller bulbs should be planted five inches deep and six inches apart. Larger bulbs, such as the Crown Imperials, should be planted seven inches deep and twelve inches apart.

Prior to planting, the soil should be amended to be very rich. After planting, keep your plants watered. If the soil dries out, the bulbs will dry out and die.

There is no need to deadhead your plants. They will only bloom once. After the flowers die, you can remove them or leave them on the plant to produce seeds.

After your plants have finished blooming, continue watering them to keep the foliage alive and making food for the bulb. Do not remove the foliage until it starts to yellow and die later in the summer.

Fritillaria michailovskyi growing in my garden.
Fritillaria michailovskyi growing in my garden. | Source

How to Divide Fritillaries

Every three years, you should divide your fritillarie bulbs to keep them healthy. Overcrowding encourages disease and insect infestation. Division should be done after the bulbs go dormant in the fall. Carefully dig the bulbs up using a garden fork. Replant them with the proper spacing, 6- to 12 inches apart depending on the size of the plants.

How to Grow Fritillaries From Seed

Unlike spring blooming bulbs like tulips and daffodils, fritillaries can be grown from seed. Allow the flowers to die and make seeds. Then plant the seeds in the fall at the same depth that you plant the bulbs. When the seed germinates in the spring, the foliage will provide the food for the bulb to grow underground. It takes about five years to grow the bulb. The plants won't flower until the bulb is fully grown, so be patient. You might want to establish a nursery bed where the seeds can grow and mature into bulbs. After the five years, you can transplant the mature bulbs into your garden in the fall for blooms the following spring or summer depending on which one you are growing.

Questions & Answers

© 2014 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      Flourish, I try to make my hubs interesting as well as informative. Glad you found this one was both. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      I love the details you provide: a plant that smells like a fox! Bulbs that appreciate partial shade are what I'm looking for, so thanks for writing about these.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      I love seeing what's growing in other parts of the world too. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Very pretty little flower. One I haven't seen before. If I d ever see them I will think of you. Thanks for sharing, it's nice to see plants from other parts of the world.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      I would miss them too! Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      These kinds of plants are what I miss living in the desert with poor, dry, clay soil. I love the Guinea hen best, too.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      Don't plant it too close to your house, Pawpaw. It really stinks! Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image


      5 years ago from Kansas

      The crown imperial looks like one I might try out.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      I agree! They look so exotic but they're so easy to grow. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 

      5 years ago from West Kootenays

      These are such interesting-looking flowers.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)