28 June 2012

Crocosmia is Montbretia from South African grasslands - hardy in zones 6 to 9


Most of the plants that thrive in our zone 7 gardens are not from South African grasslands. An exception to this rule is Crocosmia, a member of the iris plant family and cousins of gladiolas. Their common names include coppertips, falling stars, montbretia, antholyza and curonus.

The Crosocmia name is from the Greek word kronos (saffron) and osme (odor). Their Montbretia name is from Antoine Frans Ernest Conquebert de Monbret, Napoleon’s botanist who went to Egypt in 1798.

When they are grown in pots filled with good soil and compost, Montbretia flowers grow much larger than they can in the perennial beds where they are usually planted.

Planted from bulb/corms, Crocosmias send up lance-shaped leaves in the spring that are topped with several inches of funnel-shaped,  brightly colored flowers in mid-summer. They make long-lasting cut flowers for bouquets. Do not cut the leaves off because they need to soak up sun to create energy for next year’s flowering.

Usually, the entire plant is about 2-feet tall and thrives in full sun to part shade with 6 hours of sun a day working best. They bloom best if watered periodically, especially during flowering.

The corms multiply fairly quickly, creating a clump. As a result, some Crocosmia hybrids are considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest, England and New Zealand.

Others have won a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit. The award winners include: Seven Sunrise, Lucifer, Crocosmia masoniorum, C. mansoniorum Rowallane yellow, C. crocosmiiflora Carmin brilliant, C. crocosmiiflora Solfatare and C. crocosmiiflora Star of the East.

Crocosmia flowers are hermaphroditic or self-fertile and are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds and the wind.

 Crocosmias (abbreviated to the letter C in the list below) come in a variety of colors so you can choose the ones that will work in your garden scheme.

Here are a few of the 400 varieties available -

C. aurea – pale green leaves 2 feet tall, orange flowers, zones 6 to 9

C. Bressingham Blaze – mid-green leaves, red-orange flowers with yellow throats, 2.5 feet tall

C. Citronella is the same as C. Golden Fleece and C. George Davison, mid-green leaves, lemon yellow flowers, zones 6 to 9

C. x crocosmiiflora is the same as Montbretia has 2 foot tall leaves, orange-yellow flowers

C. Emberglow has dark red flowers on 2 foot tall spikes

C. Emily McKenzie or Lady McKenzie has downward-facing wide-petaled bright orange flowers with mahogany throats

C. Fire King is the same as Jackanapes, many branches of orange-red and yellow flowers, zones 8 to 10.

C. Lady Hamilton has golden yellow flowers with apricot centers, 2 to 3 feet tall

C. Lucifer grows 3 or 4 feet tall, has upward-facing, red flowers that are 2-inches long, popular as hummingbird magnet

C. masoniorum has upward facing orange-red flowers on 4 foot tall stems.

C paniculata has pleated, olive-green leaves, downward-curved orange flowers, 5-feet tall

C. pottsii blooms for 2 months, with orange flowers on top of 2-foot tall stems,

C. Solfatare or C. Solfatarre has bronze leaves and apricot-yellow flowers, 2-feet tall

C. Sptifire is mid-green with orange-red flowers on almost 3-foot tall stems

C. Star of the East blooms late summer to early fall. The flowers are upward facing and clear orange, 2-feet tall

To plant the corms, put them 3 to 4 inches deep in average soil, pointed side up, in a location that drains well. Water well after planting. Every few years they will become crowded so plan to divide them.

The only insect or disease problems Crocosmia have is spider mites if they are too dry.

Sources: Easy to Grow Bulbs www.easytogrowbulbs.com, American Meadows www.americanmeadows.com, Plant Delights www.plantdelights.com and Crocosmia Gardens website is at http://www.thecrocosmiagardens.net.

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