Fritillaria raddeana

As you suspected all along, I’m a pushover. Why did I imagine that I could host a blog that rates plants? I’m incapable of criticizing anything. Even if I think that something doesn’t live up to my expectations, five minutes later I’ve found some reason why I’m crazy about it. Usually I’ve found 5 reasons why I’m beguiled by it. Fritillaria raddeana is a good example.

A big drum roll preceded the blooming of F. raddeana. First of all, it’s precocious. Hardly anything was happening when it first broke ground and then rushed up into bud with breakneck speed. So all eyes were on this flower (or more correctly — cluster of flowers). With a decided lack of competition, it was pretty much the only game in town. But when it opened, it had a hard time living up to expectations.

I wasn’t impressed at first. Underwhelmed might pretty much sum it up. The flowers are sort of greenish. In fact, it’s easy to miss F. raddeana in the greater scheme of spring unfolding. The flowers are about the size of F. meleagris, and my one-year-old bulbs didn’t have anything close to the 20 bell cluster in the catalog description. I was grumbling, I admit. But then it grew on me (you saw this coming, didn’t you?). And pretty soon, I was thinking that I should purchase more F. raddeana this autumn. In the final analysis, I decided that the only thing wrong with F. raddeana is that I don’t have enough of it to make a rip roaring display.

Okay, here’s F. raddeana‘s attributes:

  • It’s every early.
  • It has a discrete beauty.
  • It’s dynamite with Helleborus ‘Candy Love’.
  • It isn’t as skunky as crown imperials.
  • It’s just smelly enough to deter deer.
  • There was no hard frost after Fritillaria raddeana began to emerge, so I can’t attest to its fortitude against sub freezing temperatures. But it’s definitely a keeper and will probably be increased. That said, Fritillaria raddeana doesn’t have the shock appeal of Fritillaria imperialis (the Big Stinker). Granted, it’s hard to compete with a flower that parades around with a crazy, stark raving orange headdress in spring. A friend has the variegated version which is the ultimate crowd pleaser. It knocks all of the competition out of the water. So I’m jaded. But weigh in. Compare the goods. What’s your verdict?

    By the way, has anyone seen a crown imperial with just one single flower nodding from its topknot? This is a seedling that came up in a friend’s garden. Could it be an oddity?

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    21 Responses to Fritillaria raddeana

    1. Lisa from PA says:

      What a beautiful flower! I like it because it’s different. And you’re right. You need a ton more to make a statement with such a quiet plant. I can imagine how great it looks next to Helleborus ‘Candy Love’. I was going to say that this reminds me of a Helleborus. I like pairing contrasting foliage like that myself. It really draws the eye to a particular spot in the garden. I like the foliage on both the Fritillaria raddeana and the imperialis.

      • Tovah Martin says:

        It’s REALLY begun to grow on me, Lisa. I think that I’m going to oomph up the numbers of both the ‘Candy Love’ and the F. raddeana. It’s in a place where NOTHING else will grow except primroses (a thought = I bet epimedium would thrive). Question = do you have problems with lily beetle? Because the scourge-of-the-universe also attacks fritillarias (also in the lily family).

    2. My immediate response (because that is the sort of obsessed person I am) is: Hybridize raddeana and imperialis! That would be all SORTS of fun! I’m adding it to my list right now.

      • Tovah Martin says:

        Hey, now you’re cookin’, Joseph. Doesn’t it seem as though frits interbreed shamelessly? I saw a Fritillaria verticillata with guinea hen markings inside the bells yesterday. Looked like F. meleagris must have jumped the fence. Sure was fun, though. Question for the expert = I’ve got a group of crown imperials that NEVER blossom. Ever had any trouble with that? They get shade in summer, but they’re in full sun now (under deciduous trees). Thoughts?

    3. Lisa from PA says:

      I’m not sure I have lily beetles, but I’ll keep an eye on them when they come up. Love your blog, Joseph!

      • Tovah Martin says:

        You can’t miss them, Lisa = lily beetles are bright red and VERY visible. You can see them from a few yards away. Wish we didn’t have them! They’ve been in the neighborhood 2 years now and they’re very destructive. In the first year, they totally chomped down my Solomon’s Seal (also in the lily clan).

    4. Lisa from PA says:

      Oh! I have a huge stand of variegated Solomon’s Seal coming up now. I’ll check on them today and see if the red lily beetle has infested them. Thanks for the heads up. I don’t have too many pests in my yard as I have lots of birds.

    5. Sorry, I can’t give any advice… I’m a total fritillaria novice, and am just starting to collect them. Luckily no lily beetles in this part of the country yet (Michigan)… I hope they never arrive!

      • Tovah Martin says:

        The lily beetle scourge seems to be a really slow moving problem. Years ago, I heard that it arrived in Boston and it took many years to gravitate here. I’m hoping that the frits will act like trap plants so I can wipe out the problem before my cherished lilies begin to perform and before they can move westward…We’re watching your back…

    6. Heidi S. says:

      I planted a few Fritillaria raddeana a couple of years ago. They came up the first year and were kind of small and then didn’t return the following year. They were in full sun. Any advice on growing them?

      • Tovah Martin says:

        Well, I’m new to F. raddeana myself, Heidi, but I can give you advice based on F. imperialis — which seems to be a close cousin. Someone suggested planting the bulbs on their sides because they hate moisture gathering in that hollow crown of the oversized bulb. So I’m thinking that they probably also like a well-drained soil. I notice that F. raddeana has an equally huge bulb with a hollow crown. Hope this helps.

        • Heidi S. says:

          Interesting, thanks for the tip! They were in well drained soil (towards the top of a slope), although there was some vinca around them at the time (I am in the process of removing it). Maybe I will give them a try again. They are so unique looking. 🙂

          • Tovah Martin says:

            I’m fascinated that you found them previous to this year, Heidi. I thought that they were new to the market. I saw the collection of fritillarias at the Hortus Bulborum in Holland a few years ago, and they didn’t have them yet!

            • Heidi S. says:

              Oops. I double checked and I had f. Raddeana in orange. I buy most of my bulbs from Brent and Beckys. I also looked online and it sounds like the roots can rot if too damp, which shouldn’t have been an issue where I had these but maybe I put them in the ground at the wrong time.

            • Tovah Martin says:

              Sounds like you had Fritillaria imperialis. Best time to plant that is in autumn — but still, plant the bulb on its side to keep the hollow center from collecting water and rotting. I’m hoping that F. raddeana will be perfectly hardy here. Sometimes a late frost can really ruin them.

    7. Off topic comment with apologies……here in my garden a grow bunch of different vines and am always on the lookout for vines I don’t have but know in my heart I would love if I only knew they existed… how about a post on your favorite climber?

      • Tovah Martin says:

        You got it, Cheryl! I promised Lisa a post on magnolias — it’s coming up next. After that, I’ll do a vine for you (and I’m not going to be the spoiler to let you in on the secret of which vine wins my vote = but trust me, it’s got a heap of great traits). Stay tuned.

    8. Hey c’mon! The skunky smell of fritillaria bulbs isn’t all that bad now, is it? I kinda like it!
      By the by, have you ever heard that smell referred to as “foxy?” 🙂

      • Tovah Martin says:

        Just between you and me, I’ve always liked the smell of skunk in small doses. But then, I rather like the smell of fish emulsion. And I’ve gained an affection for the stench of fermented salmon (as in deer repellent). But a crown imperial at the dinner table is definitely going to be the skunk at a garden party (I’ve forced them and I’m telling you this first hand). Now you tell me the truth — how many times have you cuddled up to a fox?

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