Chocolate lilies are fairly rare to encounter in the wild, which makes them even more special when spotted on a hillside or cultivated in a garden. While they have some fairly specific habitat requirements, it is possible to duplicate these conditions in your summer garden or greenhouse. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Chocolate lily flower meaning, their uses, growing tips, and suitable gifting occasions. 

Chocolate Lily Flower Meaning, Symbolism, Uses, and Growing Tips

Chocolate Lily Flowers – The Essentials: 

Plant Family:Liliaceae
Scientific Name:Fritillaria biflora
Native Range:Western North America
Colors:Dark maroon, chocolate brown
Characteristics:Bell-shaped flowers with a chocolate-like scent
Mature Height:1 to 2 feet
Flowering Season:Spring to early summer
Growing Zones:4 to 8
Sunlight:Partial shade to full sun
Watering:Average watering with well-draining soil
Soil:Moist, well-draining soil
Fertilizing:Fertilize in early spring with a balanced slow-release fertilizer
Pests:Generally pest-free
Pruning:Remove spent flower stalks and dead foliage
Symbolism:Represents rebirth, purity, and renewal

About Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria biflora)

About Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria biflora)


Fritillaria biflora belongs to the Liliaceae (lily) plant family in the Lilioideae subfamily within the Lilieae tribe. It is one of 158 accepted species belonging to the Fritillaria genus. Fritillaria biflora is commonly called chocolate lily, mission bells, or California chocolate lily.

Botanical Characteristics

The chocolate lily is an herbaceous perennial with bulbous root systems. They have bright green, strappy foliage and sturdy stalks that can grow to be nearly two feet in height at maturity. The stalks produce bell-shaped flowers with six petals each and prominent yellow and green stamens. 

The flowers themselves are often purplish-brown in color (like chocolate), but they can also sometimes bloom in greenish-purple or yellowish-green colors. The petals are also often spotted or lightly variegated with green or yellow.

Native Range

Fritillaria biflora is native to California and northwestern Mexico.

Fritillaria biflora has two accepted types of infraspecies which include:

  • Fritillaria biflora var. biflora
  • Fritillaria biflora var. ineziana Jeps.

The Fritillaria camschatcensis is another species of the same genus that is also commonly referred to as a chocolate lily (or Kamchatka fritillary). With similarly brown, lily-like flowers, this species is similar in appearance to the Fritillaria biflora.

The Meaning and Symbolism of Chocolate Lilies

The Meaning and Symbolism of Chocolate Lilies


Fritillaria biflora has a slightly complicated etymology.

In 1570, an apothecary named Noël Capperon discovered Fritillaria meleagris. He described the plant in a letter and said that the local people referred to it as “fritillaria” because the flower had a pattern that resembled a checkerboard. However, “fritillus” is the Latin name for the box containing dice that were used in a certain game played in the region.

The specific epithet biflora means “two flowered.”

The common name chocolate lily refers to the chocolate-like flower color of this lily’s flowers. It is thought that its other common name, mission bells, refers to the flower’s shape and its location in California and northwestern Mexico, a region where many Catholic missions were built.

Meaning and Symbolism Overview

Chocolate lilies carry the symbolic meaning of innocence, purity, and rebirth. They also have a strong association with the Virgin Mary in Christianity. In flowers, the color brown symbolizes nature and warmth. Brown flowers also represent stability, strength, and determination.

Additionally, in the language of flowers, the Chocolate lily represents the following: 

Natural Beauty: 

Chocolate Lily symbolizes the beauty of the natural world. Its unique and captivating appearance reminds us of the diversity and wonder found in the plant kingdom.

Subtlety and Sensitivity: 

Chocolate Lily is often seen as a symbol of subtlety and sensitivity. Its gentle and unassuming presence conveys a message of delicacy and mindfulness.

Hidden Charms: 

The chocolate-like scent of the flowers adds an element of mystery and hidden charm to Chocolate Lily. It symbolizes the discovery of hidden beauty and the allure of the unknown.

Chocolate Lilies in Spiritualism

Chocolate lilies and their essence are used in spiritual practices to help promote balance and harmony between the chakras. The chocolate lily is recommended to help address issues such as feeling disconnected from the body or the Earth, struggling to handle everyday tasks, feeling unsafe, feeling insecure, experiencing financial problems, and lacking boundaries.

In spiritual practices, chocolate lily flowers are believed to connect the root chakra with the crown chakra and align the human body to receive spiritual information and positive energy. This is believed to release anger, tension, and negative energy from the hips, pelvis, and base of the spinal column.

Additionally, chocolate lily is believed to help individuals gain insight into their past lives and current lives to achieve a new perspective on and a better understanding of death.

Uses and Benefits of Chocolate Lily Flowers

Uses and Benefits of Chocolate Lily Flowers

Native Plant

In California and northwestern Mexico, chocolate lilies are native plants. As a result, they contribute to supporting the health of the natural ecosystem in these areas.

Unfortunately, they are quite rare. In fact, the Fritillaria biflora var. ineziana variety of chocolate lily is listed as a rare, threatened, or endangered plant in California and elsewhere. This seriously endangered plant can only be found growing naturally in San Mateo County.


The chocolate lily supports local pollinator populations, including various butterflies and moths. They also have a slightly putrid scent that attracts flies for pollination.

Traditional Food Source

Chocolate lily flowers have historically been used and cultivated by Native American tribes along the Pacific coast of the United States as their bulbous roots, often referred to as “Indian potatoes,” could provide a nutritious source of food.

How to Grow Chocolate Lily Flowers

How to Grow Chocolate Lily Flowers

Growing Zones

Chocolate lilies are suitable for growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 9a to 11.

Garden Uses and Choosing the Right Location

Chocolate lilies are bulbous, herbaceous perennials that require full sun to thrive. They are suitable for wildflower gardens, xeric gardens, cottage gardens, cutting gardens, and meadow planting.

Soil Requirements

Chocolate lilies grow naturally in serpentine soil formations found beneath the grasslands and hillsides of California and northwestern Mexico. They require fast-draining, sandy soil with a neutral pH.

Planting Tips and Techniques

Chocolate lilies can be planted either from seed (collected from dried seed pods). Seeds can be sown directly in the soil in the fall or started indoors in winter.

They can also be propagated by dividing and planting the bulbous roots and offshoots that develop.

Watering, Fertilizing, and Mulching

Chocolate lilies are drought-tolerant and do not handle overly moist soil. New plants can be watered when the soil has dried out, but established plants typically do not require watering. Chocolate lilies thrive in arid climates and do not require frequent watering. Mulching these plants can also result in overly moist soil conditions that can lead to root rot.

Chocolate lilies can be fertilized lightly in early spring with a well-balanced, diluted liquid fertilizer.

Caring for Chocolate Lily Flowers

Caring for Chocolate Lily Flowers

Pruning and Deadheading

Chocolate lilies do not require regular pruning or deadheading. Once flowers are spent, remove the dried seed pods from the plants to further propagate. Cut away dead foliage at the end of the growing season or before early spring.

Common Pests and Diseases

Chocolate lilies are susceptible to bulb rot and fungi such as rust and leaf spot. The best way to protect chocolate lilies from these issues is by not overwatering them. If a plant contracts fungicide, treat it (and neighboring plants) with a fungicide.

Overwintering and Storage

If chocolate lilies grow outside of zones 9a through 11, the plants must be overwintered indoors. Bring the plants inside to a cool and dry location.

Best Companion Plants for Chocolate Lilies

Since chocolate lilies are an excellent native plant to grow in California and northern Mexico, they are best paired with other native plants that have similar needs, such as native grasses, herbaceous perennials, annual wildflowers, and other geophytes (plants with bulbous, tuberous, or rhizomatic root systems).

Creative Uses for Chocolate Lilies

Chocolate lilies can be challenging to cultivate outside of their natural growing zone. They can, however, be enjoyed as annuals in other locations. Growing them can be a fun challenge and also provide you with the unusual experience of having chocolate lilies in your garden.

If you live within the natural habitat and growing zones of chocolate lilies, then you can grow them in your garden to support the local ecosystem. In California, they are a fantastic choice for native plant gardens and xeric gardens.

Chocolate Lily Flower Crafts

Since chocolate lily flowers are so rare, you should not pick them when you find them growing in the wild. In fact, they can be a great addition to a seed garden so that you can help propagate them around their native habitat.

If you’re growing chocolate lilies in your garden for fun, then you can incorporate them into different crafts, such as dried flowers or freshly cut floral designs. They also make a wonderful gift, accompanying a box of chocolates.

Chocolate Lily Flower FAQs:

For How Long Do Chocolate Lily Flowers Bloom?

Chocolate lily flowers typically bloom throughout March and April in their native habitat.

What Is the Ideal Climate for Growing Chocolate Lilies?

The Chocolate lily flower thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9a through 11. Their native habitats typically receive between 10 and 70 inches of annual precipitation and no more than two inches of precipitation in the summer. They require low to moderate humidity and temperatures between 38°F and 80°F.

Can Chocolate Lilies Grow in Containers or Indoors?

Yes, chocolate lilies can be grown in containers, given adequate soil drainage and sunlight.

How Often Should I Water My Chocolate Lilies?

Chocolate lilies are drought-tolerant and only require routine watering when plants are first getting established.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Plant Chocolate Lilies?

Chocolate lily seeds can be planted outdoors in the fall or started inside during the winter.

How Can I Protect My Chocolate Lilies From Pests and Diseases?

The best way to protect chocolate lilies from pests and diseases is to avoid overwatering them. Too much water can lead to the development of root rot and fungal infections. Additionally, chocolate lilies should not be planted in areas where fungi have previously affected other plants.

How Can I Extend the Lifespan of My Chocolate Lilies After They’ve Been Cut?

After cutting chocolate lilies, place the stems in water as soon as possible, change the water frequently, and do not display them in direct sunlight.

A Sweet Tooth’s Dream Garden

Chocolate lilies might not smell sweet, but they have a name and color that can satisfy your sweet tooth – and your love for native plants. To honor this rare beauty, consider planting a few chocolate lilies in your garden this year.

Editorial Director | Full Bio | + posts

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

Author Andrew Gaumond

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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