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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs

Hot Color: Crocosmia (page 2 of 3)

by Eileen Murray

Choosing Crocosmia

Where to buy. You can order crocosmia from catalogs that specialize in spring-planted, summer-blooming bulbs. You can find them in mail-order sources in the $10 to $13 range for 25 to 30 corms. Garden centers also carry crocosmia. In stores, look for healthy, mildew-free corms (the bulblike part from which the plants grow), and plan to buy more than one if you want a rich patch of brilliant color.

Species and varieties. Crocosmia aurea has pale to burnt-orange, 1-1/2 to 2 inch flowers that appear semi-opposite on simple or branching spikes. Hardy to zone 7, this variety blooms in early summer. 'Flore Pleno' has double blossoms; 'Imperialis' offers robust, large brilliant-orange flowers, and 'Maculata' flowers have an orange-brown basal spot. C. aurea can be difficult to find.

Crocosmia crocosmiiflora, a cross between C. aurea and C. pottsii, blooms in mid to late summer. Many varieties, all of which naturalize readily, are available from mail-order suppliers.

Crocosmia masoniorum has reddish orange, 1-1/2 inch flowers that grow on one side of 2-1/2 to 3 foot arching spikes. The flowers are narrow at the base and widen to outspread lobes. C. masoniorum blooms in late summer. Hardy to zone 6, it must be dug up in all regions with frost. Some growers in the West call this species a "thug." In the well-drained soils of the West Coast, it can become weedy and crowd out more timid plants. In other areas, it's easily contained.

C. paniculata has alternating flowers of deep orange on erect, branching spikes. It flowers in summer, and grows to about 3 feet tall. This variety is not readily available, though it may be sold as Curtonus paniculatus.

C. pottsii, a smaller variety (to 24 inches), has flowers that grow horizontal to erect along one side of each branch of a branched spike. Its flowers are orange flushing to red, and the variety is hardy to zone 6.

Varieties. 'Lucifer', a 4-foot plant with flaming red-orange flowers, is the most common cultivated variety in the United States and hardy to zone 5. Other popular varieties include 'Bressingham Blaze', 'Bressingham Beacon' (both orange-red, to 2-1/2 feet tall), 'Citronella' (yellow with red-brown markings in the center), 'Emily McKenzie' (dark orange with red highlights, to 3 feet tall), 'Emberglow' (orange-brown, upward-arching flowers, to 2 feet tall), 'Firebird' (orange-red with green-tinted throats and 2-1/2 feet tall), 'Jenny Bloom' (yellow flowers, to 2-1/2 feet tall), and 'Solfaterre' (apricot-yellow flowers, to 2 feet tall).

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