The Fritillaria imperialis is a genus from the lily family (Liliaceae) and is commonly named crown imperial. The crown imperial is a bulb that is native to the mountainous regions in the south of Asia (Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan).
The bulbs are pretty big and have a hole at the top in the middle. The new stem grows out of that hole. It is best to plant the bulb immediately after you have bought them in autumn. Plant them about 20 cm (8 inches) deep and 30 cm (12 inches) apart. You can transplant the bulbs you may already have in your garden when the leaves have died back. You should prevent water being trapped in the hole in the bulb because that can cause the bulb to rot. Therefore it is best to place the bulb on its side. It is wise to cover the ground with leaves or something of the sort in winter because the bulbs are not very hardy.
The crown imperial prefers a position in full sun or part shade in hot summer climates and with fertile and well-drained soil. It may take a few years before the bulb blooms. Bulbs that are grown from seed may even take longer.
The Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra’ was a bit of a disappointment for me. The flowers where rather orange instead of red. Also the number of flowers was disappointing. See the photos. The flowers are still beautiful and the nectar from the honey glands attracts a lot of bees. The Fritillaria imperialis is available with orange, red and yellow flowers.
After the bloom seeds will develop. In order for the bulb to obtain enough food supply for the next year it is best to cut off the spent flowers to prevent seeds from developing. Leave the foliage until it has died back so that it can fill the bulb with food.
The bulb as well as the plant spread an unpleasant smell. So do not plant the Fritillaria imperialis too close to your terrace.
Unfortunately the scarlet lily beetle loves the crown imperial. I have removed many of them and if you do not pay enough attention you will have larvae and they have a devastating result. Snails and slugs also like to eat from the Fritillaria imperialis. So you may be quite busy if you want to enjoy the bloom.
Attracts bees: yes
Characteristic: newly emerging every year
Deer resistant: yes
Exposure: sun/ part shade
Flower color: various
Flowering time: April – May
Foliage color: green
Fragrant flower: no
Hardiness: -15 ºC (4 ºF)
Height: 40 inches (1 m)