Crocosmia provide brilliant summer blooms

By Ralph E. Mitchell

Crocosmia is one plant that I have always wanted to try.  While I like to “Plan Before I Plant”,  I am sometimes impulsive in my plant purchases.  So, when I saw a bag of Crocosmia bulbs for sale at a local garden center this past spring, I bought and planted them.  Struggling to keep them watered during our drought, they really took off and began to flower once the rains returned.  What is a Crocosmia and why would want one?

Crocosmia are sometimes referred as Montbretia, named after a French Botanist, but I prefer to call this flowering plant Crocosmia.  A native from Africa, the plant develops from underground bulbs – actually corms – that produce narrow strap-like leaves at least two-feet long.  In May and June the Crocosmia begins to bloom on spikes with flowers arranged in a zigzag pattern.  A single plant can produce up to ten spikes of flowers with individual blossoms up to two-inches in width.  Lasting several weeks in the garden, they also make great cut flowers.  Allow the leaves to mature and remain intact to help nurture the underground corms.  At some point after flowering, Crocosmia will die back for the winter.  As such, do not forget that they are there!  Plant new corms in full sun to part shade as soon as they become available in garden centers in the late winter winter/early spring.  Set the corms six to eight inches apart at a  depth of three to five inches, in a group of about twelve corms.  Every three to four years, divide the established clumps in the spring before you notice new growth.

There are numerous cultivars of Crocosmia on the market.  While locally I found an unnamed red-orange type, I also spotted an intensely red one called ‘Lucifer’ which is brilliant red in color.  Other named hybrids may include ‘Carmine Brilliant’, red flowers with yellow stamens; ‘Emberglow’ with red flowers and long stems; ‘Emily McKenzie’ with orange and maroon blotched blooms; and several yellow types including ‘Citronella’ and ‘George Davidson’.  Check Internet sites that sell summer-flowering bulbs for more variety.

A relative of gladiolas, crocus and iris, the Crocosmia offers a dimension of summer color that you may not have tried before.  “Plan Before You Plant” and try some Crocosmias in your garden!  For information on all types of flowering bulbs and corms, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.

Resources:
Crocosmia – UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions  (2017) The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
Jordi, R. (2006) Crocosmia.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS – Nassau County
Christman, S. (2003) Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora.  Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL.

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