There are approximately 100 species of Fritillaria (all native to the northern hemisphere) with the majority of them being native around the Mediterranean. There are only a few that are found in garden centers but the number is increasing as gardeners learn about them.

They are interesting bulbs to grow but don't grow them for their fragrance. Mostly they smell like rotting meat with a touch of old-egg thrown in for good measure.

Fritillaria assyriaca

Has a brownish-purple flower but you'll get it early. It starts flowering in a zone 4 garden in late March to mid-May depending on the season (figure just before the early tulips). This bulb will reach up 10-12 inches in height so it is a short flower for the front of the garden or rock garden (excellent in the alpine garden).

How to plant
Plant the bulb so the base is 4 to 6 inches deep and put each bulb 6 inches apart.

This is a plant that demands full hot sunshine and mine tended to disappear from the rock garden because they got too much afternoon shade.

As a note, this is one of the few bulbs that will survive in dampish areas so it can be planted next to ponds with some success.


Fritillaria imperialis bulb

Fritillaria imperialis

This is the best known of these plants and it has been in gardens since the 16th century. It is found mostly in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan in the wild which tells you that dry summers and cold winters are not a problem. If you overwater this one, you'll lose it. If you plant it in clay, or poor drainage, you'll lose it. It is quite specific in that it wants full hot sun and excellent drainage. (no clay) This is a great bulb for zones 4 to 6 where the winters are cold and the summers hot.

How to plant

Plant this bulb as soon as you obtain it. The roots often start growing inside the packaging and if this happens to you, be very careful when transplanting so that you do not damage these roots (you'll kill or set back the bulb if you do)

It blooms early in the spring (May) and the flower stem will reach upwards to 3 feet tall topped with a red and orange-red flower.

Plant the bulb so the bottom of the bulb is 6 to 8 inches deep and plant a good 10 to 12 inches apart to allow room for the leaves to develop.

This bulb will accept full hot sun in the north but will tolerate a little shade. It will do better with a touch of shade protection in more southerly gardens.


Fritillaria imperialis Rubra Maxima

It too has an unpleasant odour and it is often sold as a "mole-plant" guaranteed to drive moles away from your garden because of its fragrance. This may be true. I've never had a mole problem in that garden but I wouldn't swear it was because of this plant. I didn't have one before I had the plant either. :-)

This bulb is quite clear about what it likes. Give it the above and you'll be successful. If unhappy, it simply dies.

Fritillaria meleagris

This is the very common snakes head fritillaria. This is another of the Mediterranean species and you'll find it will grow in a dampish area too.

The flower stem holding purple or white flowers will reach to 8 to 10 inches.


Fritillaria meleagris

How to plant

Plant the base of the bulb to 3 to 5 inches deep and put these smallish bulbs 2 to 3 inches apart for the best show.

They will take full sun and light shade so they perform very well in rock gardens as well as on the edges underneath shrubs and trees.

They do tend to like somewhat acidic gardens so peat moss can be added before planting. After planting, a little can be gently cultivated between bulbs but do not disturb the bulb if possible. Like most fritillaria, they do resent being moved once established.

Fritillaria michailovskyi

This is another of the smaller bulbs but it appears quite elegant in the rock garden. The reddish-purple flowers appear first thing in the spring and last six weeks (April-May) on 6 to 8 inch tall stems.

How to plant

Plant the bulbs approximately 3 to 5 inches deep in the full sun with 3 to 5 inches between bulbs.

This bulb will tolerate partial shade and it lived quite a few years in my alpine garden tucked between a few rather large rocks.

Book cover spring bulbs

Fritillaria persica

This is a deep-purple flowering bulb that thrives in the full sun perennial border. At 24 inches tall, it is one of the taller Fritiallaria and reflects it with gorgeous spring blooms.


Fritillaria persica

How to plant

Plant 6 to 8 inches deep (base of bulb) and equal distance from neighbouring bulbs.

Treat this bulb as you would the other taller species (F. imperialis). In fact, they make rather good neighbors as where one will grow, so will the other.

The only downside to this bulb is that the flower stems can be a bit spindly and you may got some flopping in severe weather.

Some gardeners lift the bulb in July after the leaves have gone yellow and replant in the fall. They say it increases the lifespan of the bulb in their gardens. If you have a dampish garden or if you irrigate, this may be a wise choice.

Fritillaria pontica

This bulb has greenish flowers with brown and orange spots and I once grew it to say I had done it. I'm not a fan of green flowers (can't you tell?) :-) But if you like them, then you like 'em.

This plant will hold its flowers 10 to 12 inches off the ground. And like all the frits, this flower stinks as well.

How to plant

It should be planted 4 to 5 inches deep (base of bulb that deep) and an equal distance from its neighbors.

It loves the full sun but will tolerate part shade. It does make a good rock garden plant and will thrive at the drip line of shrubs and trees.

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