If you want to add warm spikes of color to your landscape, look no further than Crocosmia. These gorgeous summer blooms — a staple of Victorian-era gardens — sway atop long, swordlike foliage resembling ornamental grass. Also known as falling stars or montbretia, crocosmia’s fiery red and orange blossoms are easy to cultivate and look right at home in various garden aesthetics. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Crocosmia flower meaning, symbolism, popular types, uses, and essential growing tips.
- Crocosmia – The Essentials:
- About Crocosmia
- The Meaning & Symbolism of Crocosmia
- Uses and Benefits of Crocosmia Flowers
- How to Grow Crocosmia Flowers
- Caring for Crocosmia Flowers
- Best Companion Plants for Crocosmia
- Creative Uses for Crocosmia
- Crocosmia Flower Crafts
- Crocosmia Flower FAQs:
- The Crocosmia Flower – Wrapping Up
Crocosmia – The Essentials:
|Scientific Name:||Crocosmia spp.|
|Native Range:||Southern and Eastern Africa|
|Colors:||Orange, red, yellow|
|Characteristics:||Sword-like foliage with upright flower spikes|
|Mature Height:||2 to 4 feet|
|Flowering Season:||Summer to early fall|
|Growing Zones:||6 to 10|
|Sunlight:||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering:||Moderate watering with well-draining soil|
|Soil:||Well-draining soil with average fertility|
|Fertilizing:||Once or twice during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer|
|Pruning:||Remove spent flower stalks and dead foliage|
|Symbolism:||Represents passion, courage, and adventure|
The Crocosmia genus contains about 11 species of flowering plants, all of which grow from corms. The genus is also known as Montbretia or C. x crocosmiiflora.
Crocosmia belongs to the Iridaceae or iris family, which is named for the many colors of blooms it contains. There are more than 2,200 species within the iris family, including popular ornamental flowers such as gladiolus, crocus, and freesia.
More than 400 hybrids and cultivars of Crocosmia flowers have been developed. Some popular varieties include ‘Lucifer,” which has bright scarlet flowers that resemble gladioli, and ‘Mars,’ with red-orange, freesia-like blossoms. ‘Severn Sunrise’ has orange blooms that fade to salmon, and ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’ has bright yellow flowers.
Mature crocosmia plants can reach up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Long, arching stems emerge from a clump of attractive, sword-shaped, green foliage.
In mid-to-late summer, brightly colored blooms appear. Flowers are tubular and grow in groups of four to 20 along stems. Depending on the variety, flowers may be red, red-orange, orange, or yellow. Dried crocosmia flowers smell like the rare herb saffron when steeped in warm water.
Crocosmia is native to tropical regions of southern Africa.
The Meaning & Symbolism of Crocosmia
The genus name comes from the Greek word for “saffron,” or kronos, and the Greek word osme, or “smell.” This is thought to refer to the flower’s saffron-like scent.
Crocosmia flowers were long prized in their native southern Africa, where they were used to make yellow dyes. They were introduced to Europe in the 18th century by the French botanist Antoine François Ernest Conquebert de Montbret. He traveled with Napoleon through regions of Africa and brought crocosmia corms back to France with him.
In the 1800s, another French botanist, Victor Lemoine, developed the first hybrids of crocosmia. The plants exploded in popularity, and hundreds of hybrids were cultivated.
Crocosmia Flower Meaning in Floriography
By the Victorian era, the crocosmia flower was a must in the garden. They were often grown alongside their “cousins,” cannas and dahlias. Crocosmia carries the following symbolic meanings in the language of flowers:
Crocosmia is often seen as a symbol of passion and intense emotions. The fiery colors of its flowers, such as orange and red, represent the burning flame of love and desire.
Crocosmia is associated with courage and bravery. Its vibrant and bold presence in the garden symbolizes strength and the willingness to take risks.
The tall and upright flower spikes of Crocosmia signify a sense of adventure and exploration. The plant’s vertical growth and dynamic presence evoke a spirit of excitement and a desire for new experiences.
Crocosmia’s unique and striking appearance is often seen as a symbol of creativity and artistic expression. The vibrant colors and distinctive form of its flowers inspire imagination and innovation.
The flowers were associated with confidence, emotional strength, and warmth.
A Decline and Revival in Popularity in the mid-20th Century
After World War I and II, crocosmia flowers declined in popularity for a very practical reason: a shortage of workers due to the wars combined with the need to convert flower-growing fields to food crop-growing fields.
Even after the World Wars ended, the trend of simpler flower borders — rather than the intricate perennial borders favored in the pre-war Victorian era — meant that crocosmia remained out of favor. Many hybrids were lost during this time.
An accident brought crocosmia back into favor. In the mid-1960s, the UK had an exceptionally cold winter, and the ground froze for an extended period. At that time, it was thought that crocosmia wasn’t very hardy and could only survive in mild climates. This necessitated the development of many hybrids, which were lost after the wars.
But after the great freeze, aptly-named botanist Alan Bloom was thrilled to discover that two crocosmia hybrids had survived the cold just fine. He got to work and crossed the two, resulting in ‘Lucifer.’ This cultivar grew to 5 feet tall and bloomed with firey red flowers, and it was a hit.
The success of ‘Lucifer’ led to the development of many more equally hardy crocosmia hybrids available today in shades of red, orange, and yellow.
Uses and Benefits of Crocosmia Flowers
When dried, crocosmia flowers smell remarkably like the herb saffron, which comes from the flower of a crocosmia relative, Crocus sativa. Made from the threads of the little flower, saffron imparts a yellow hue.
Crocosmia flowers have long been used to create dye in the same color. The blooms can be used as a substitute for the rarer (and more pricey) saffron to make the same yellow color in foods.
In parts of Africa, the plant’s sap and corms are used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, and malaria. In Papua New Guinea, the leaves are used to ease congestion from head colds.
Research indicates that these plants contain antioxidants. They may also have potential for antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-tumor applications.
In the garden, the crocosmia’s bright, tubular flowers attract pollinators. They’re a favorite of bees.
How to Grow Crocosmia Flowers
Crocosmia grows in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 10. They prefer sites with full sun but grow better in shady spots in hot, dry climates. In colder regions, choose a location that offers some shelter in winter.
Crocosmia prefers moist but well-draining soil. Choose moderately fertile soil with a slightly acidic ph level.
Plant the bulbs in spring when the danger of frost has passed. Corms should be planted from 3 to 5 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Add a scoop of compost to each hole.
Water the plants when the soil feels dry, and provide more water during hot summer days. In fall, add a layer of mulch to protect the corms over the winter. Don’t trim leaves in the fall, as they provide protection for the corms.
You may not see flowers the first year, so be patient. The plants will multiply underground, and you can divide and replant them in spring.
Crocosmia looks lovely in various garden styles, such as cottage or informal. They’re great in beds and borders. Groups of a dozen corms of the same type will create a dramatic effect on the landscape.
Caring for Crocosmia Flowers
Crocosmia flowers don’t require pruning or deadheading. You may want to cut off stems after flowering ends, but leave the attractive foliage in place.
Crocosmia is generally pest and disease-free, but you may notice red spider mites. Adequate watering will help prevent these pests. You can use insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
If you live in a cold climate, dig up corms in the fall and overwinter them indoors.
Best Companion Plants for Crocosmia
Crocosmia looks terrific with other summer bulb species, such as dahlia and gladiolus. The red-orange ‘Kenora Sunset’ dahlias complement the colors of crocosmia nicely, as do ‘Grenadier.”
Other companion plant choices include cannas. ‘The President’ is a red-orange cultivar, and ‘Wyoming’ is an orange bloom in the same warm tones as crocosmia.
As for annuals, tall, feathery-foliaged cosmos are an excellent choice. Other options include daylilies, salvias, and coneflowers. For contrast, plant blue flowers with crocosmia, such as Lily of the Nile. They also look wonderful with ornamental grasses.
Other fantastic companion plants for Crocosmia include:
Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile):
The tall flower stalks and rounded clusters of blue or white flowers of Agapanthus create a striking contrast when planted alongside Crocosmia.
The vertical spikes of Salvia flowers in shades of blue, purple, or red complement the vertical growth of Crocosmia, creating a dynamic and eye-catching combination.
The bright and cheery yellow or orange flowers of Coreopsis create a vibrant and complementary contrast when planted near Crocosmia.
Sedum’s low-growing and succulent foliage, along with its late-season blooms in various colors, can provide an interesting textural contrast when planted as a ground cover or border plant alongside Crocosmia.
Ornamental grasses, such as Miscanthus or Pennisetum, can add movement and texture to the garden while creating a lovely backdrop for the upright flower spikes of Crocosmia.
Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan):
The golden-yellow flowers with dark centers of Rudbeckia complement the warm tones of Crocosmia and create a bright and vibrant display.
When selecting companion plants for Crocosmia, consider their sunlight, soil, and moisture requirements to ensure compatibility. Aim for a harmonious combination that showcases each plant’s unique characteristics and colors while providing a visually appealing and balanced garden display.
Creative Uses for Crocosmia
Crocosmia is popular for flower arrangements, thanks to their long, arching stems and dramatic blossoms. Try combining crocosmia stems with grasses, zinnia, and gingers for a summery, organic look.
These warm flowers work well in the landscape in cottage or informal gardens, on banks or slopes, and in prairie plantings. They also look lovely in containers.
Crocosmia Flower Crafts
Crocosmia lends itself well to crafts. The long stems make them easy to weave into wreaths or as the centerpiece of a floral arrangement.
You can also dry the flowers. Simply arrange a cutting on a sheet of absorbent paper. Place another piece of paper on top, and close it all inside a heavy book.
Place a heavy object on top and don’t disturb it for at least a month. Then check about once a week to ensure the flowers are completely dry. Set with a dried flower spray.
Crocosmia Flower FAQs:
How long does Crocosmia bloom for?
Crocosmia blooms in summer. Usually, they’ll bloom from June through August.
What is the ideal climate for growing Crocosmia?
Crocosmia thrives in USDA zones 6 to 10. They prefer locations with full sun but appreciate some shade in hot, dry climates.
Can Crocosmia grow in containers or indoors?
Crocosmia will grow in containers. Just be sure to use a potting mix that’s well-draining and slightly acidic.
How often should I water my Crocosmia?
Water when the soil feels dry. Provide more water during hot, sunny stretches.
When is the best time of year to plant Crocosmia?
Plant the corms in spring after the danger of frost has passed.
How can I protect my Crocosmia from pests and diseases?
The best way to prevent pests and diseases is through optimal growing conditions. This means sunny spots with well-draining, slightly acidic soil, and adequate water.
How can I extend the lifespan of Crocosmia after they’ve been cut?
Place cut stems immediately in cool, clean water. Keep the cut flowers away from sun, heat sources, and drafts, and replace water frequently.
The Crocosmia Flower – Wrapping Up
Firey, warm crocosmia add a touch of bright drama to the landscape. These popular and symbolic flowers are easy to grow and require little maintenance. It’s no surprise that they’ve been popular for decades. With associations of warmth, confidence, and emotional strength, they’re a great addition to floral arrangements and the garden.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.
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