Plant Your Fritillaria Bulbs Sideways

Dear Problem Lady: Presented by The Capitol Hill Garden Club

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Fritillaria

I plan to buy some Fritillaria bulbs this fall. Judging from pictures they’re very tall and stunningly beautiful. But a gardening friend made a face when I told her. How do they grow?
Yes – Fritillaria (pictured) are very tall—3thee to four feet—making an unusual statement in a spring garden in Zones 5 to 8. Brilliant scarlet or golden yellow or even chocolate colored, drooping, bell-shaped flowers top a tall, straight stem. Leaves appear in whorls around the base. Fritillaria like full sun or dappled shade. Plant the bulbs about 6 inches deep in rich loamy soil, 9 to 12 inches apart. Oddly, plant bulbs sideways to prevent the stem hole in the bulb from trapping water that could cause bulb rot. It all dies back by early summer as the bulbs go dormant. Your friend may have been thinking of the somewhat skunk-like odor of all parts of the plant. Never mind. They’re lovely.

Mother always loved jonquils. Why don’t I see jonquil bulbs in garden stores?
Jonquil is the Mediterranean “Narcissus Jonquilla.” Narcissus is Greek, from the myth about the beautiful young man, Narcissus, who was cursed by a rejected lover to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool. Unable to possess the beautiful reflection, he committed suicide, and was transformed into a flower. Narcissus is the genus name of both the daffodil (from the Latin Affodillus (Asphodelus)) and the jonquil. Jonquil and daffodil belong to the Narcissus family — and all three names are interchangeable. Your mother was not born yesterday – when she was a little girl more people called them “jonquils”.

Will my magnificent potted mums survive if I plant them in my garden after they fade, probably by November?
Chrysanthemums – in all their many colors – have been greenhouse grown in pots, but their roots are not strong enough to survive the winter outdoors. To keep a potted mum alive indoors, you need to strengthen the roots by repotting them with rich potting soil and good drainage in a slightly bigger container. Potted mums are great for apartments and indoor growth — but remember they are large – 2 to 3 feet wide. Encourage root growth by watering them from the bottom of the pot, and place in your sunniest window. New spring growth buds can be pinched back to encourage more buds.

A better investment for the garden is to plant small, new chrysanthemum plants next spring. As long as you water them regularly, these will grow strong roots, become large and survive next winter.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club welcomes website visitors at capitolhillgardenclub.org, and at meetings at 7 p.m., Tuesday, October 12, 2021 in the basement of the NE Public Library, at 7th Street and Maryland Avenue, NE.

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