When it comes to showy spring blooms, the crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) stands out. With their large, bell-shaped, red and orange flowers nodding atop tall stems, these exotic-looking flowers can be show-stoppers in the spring garden. But Crown Imperial flowers aren’t just gorgeous; they’re rich in history and symbolism, too. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Crown Imperial flower meaning, symbolism, popular types, uses, and essential growing tips.
- Crown Imperial Flowers – The Essentials:
- About Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
- The Meaning & Symbolism of Crown Imperial Flowers
- Uses and Benefits of Crown Imperial
- How to Grow Crown Imperial Flowers
- Caring for Crown Imperial
- Best Companion Plants for Crown Imperial
- Creative Uses for Crown Imperial
- Crown Imperial Flower Crafts
- Crown Imperial Flowers FAQs:
- Crown Imperial Flowers – Wrapping Up
Crown Imperial Flowers – The Essentials:
|Scientific Name:||Fritillaria imperialis|
|Native Range:||Middle East, Turkey, Iran|
|Colors:||Orange, yellow, red|
|Characteristics:||Tall, erect stems with bell-shaped flowers|
|Mature Height:||3 to 4 feet|
|Growing Zones:||5 to 8|
|Sunlight:||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering:||Moderate watering with well-draining soil|
|Soil:||Well-draining soil with average fertility|
|Fertilizing:||Fertilize in early spring with a balanced fertilizer|
|Pruning:||Remove spent flowers and stalks after blooming|
|Symbolism:||Represents royalty, power, and authority|
About Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
Crown imperial flowers belong to the Fritillaria genus, which contains more than 130 species of flowering bulb perennials. Flowers in this genus tend to be bell-shaped and nodding; many resemble lilies.
Fritillaria is a member of the Liliaceae or lily family. This family has about 610 species across 15 genera.
Crown Imperial shares the Fritillaria characteristic of nodding, bell-shaped flowers atop an erect stem. The red, orange, or yellow blossoms appear in spring and last until mid-June. They have a pleasant, sweet fragrance.
The clusters of flowers are topped with spiky-looking bracts. These tufts of green leaflets form a “crown” that’s genuinely eye-catching above the nodding, red-orange, or yellow flowers.
The plants grow to about 4 feet tall and wide. They have glossy, lance-shaped foliage with wavy margins. The crown imperial’s leaves also have a scent; some describe it as garlic-like, while others say it smells of foxes. The musky scent deters wildlife, such as squirrels and deer.
Crown imperials are native to western Asia, in regions that stretch from southern Turkey and Iran to the western slopes of the Himalayan mountains. Today, the plants have naturalized in parts of Austria, Sicily, and the Pacific Northwest.
The Meaning & Symbolism of Crown Imperial Flowers
As their name would suggest, the crown imperial has a majestic history. The name Fritillaria comes from the Latin for “dice cups,” and is thought to be a reference to the cup-like shape of the flowers. The species name, imperium, comes from the Latin for “empire” and refers to the crown of tufted bracts that rides above the flowers.
In the flowers’ native Iran, they’re known as “overturned tulips.” Here, they’re called the “Tear of Siavash,” it’s said that the flowers are weeping and bowing their heads in sorrow at the death of the mythological figure Siavash. The plants are memorialized in ancient carvings and architectural features.
Christians created their own legends around the crown imperial. Religious folklore said that the flowers refused to genuflect when Jesus passed by them. An angel then shamed them, and in response, they bowed their heads for all time.
The flowers are thought to have been introduced to Europe in the 1500s by the Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius. His unusual plant collection still exists in Leiden University’s gardens in the Netherlands. Two centuries later, crown imperials had spread around the continent and became a popular flower.
Crown Imperial Symbolism in Floriography:
In the Victorian era, the flowers took on even more meaning. Floriography — or the language of flowers — assigned symbolism related to majesty and class. These flowers carried the following symbolic meanings:
Royalty and Nobility:
Crown Imperial is often seen as a symbol of royalty, power, and authority. Its tall stature, vibrant colors, and distinctive crown-like shape of flowers evoke a sense of regality and grandeur.
Prestige and Grandness:
The majestic presence of the Crown Imperial symbolizes prestige and grandness. The impressive height and bold colors of its flowers make it a striking addition to any garden or floral arrangement.
Leadership and Strength:
Crown Imperial represents leadership and strength. Its upright growth and commanding presence symbolize confidence, determination, and the ability to take charge.
Additionally, Crown Imperial is believed to possess protective qualities. It is seen as a guardian flower that wards off negative energies and brings good luck and blessings.
Resurrection and Rebirth:
Crown Imperial’s appearance in early spring is often associated with the symbolism of resurrection and rebirth. Its emergence from the ground after winter represents the renewal of life and the arrival of a new season.
Uses and Benefits of Crown Imperial
F. imperialis bulbs aren’t commonly used as a food source, as raw bulbs contain toxic alkaloids. However, the cooked bulbs can be used as a starch.
Traditional medicine in the crown imperial’s native lands utilized the plants as a diuretic, an emollient, and as an expectorant. Modern science backs up the use of the plants as a potential source of treatment for respiratory ailments.
In the landscape, the cup-shaped flowers attract bees and other pollinators.
How to Grow Crown Imperial Flowers
Crown imperial grows in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8. They grow best in sites with full sun to partial shade but should receive at least two to six hours of direct sun each day.
It’s essential to choose a spot with well-drained soil. The plants will tolerate a bit of clay but prefer rich, fertile, loamy soil that’s slightly alkaline.
Plant crown imperial bulbs in the fall. You’ll notice that the bulbs have a hole or depression in them. This makes it easy for them to collect water and can make them susceptible to rot. The bulbs also lack a protective covering that many bulbs possess — known as a tunic — so don’t delay on getting them in the ground.
Plant the bulbs from six to 12 inches deep, with the hole pointing up and about a foot apart. Add some compost when planting. If the soil is wet, you may want to add some sand underneath each bulb.
If you’re growing the bulbs in containers, avoid rot by adding sand or perlite to the potting mix. You can also place the bulbs sideways so they don’t retain water and rot.
Water the bulbs after planting, then let them lie undisturbed. When the plants emerge in spring, add a layer of mulch or compost.
You may fertilize every two weeks with a high-potassium fertilizer. Wait to feed until the plants are a few inches tall. Avoid overfeeding, however, as this can lead to foliage growth at the expense of blooms. The plants may take two years to bloom, so be patient.
Caring for Crown Imperial
Water the plants and keep the soil moist while they’re in active growth, but avoid overwatering. Water less in summer, when the plants are dormant.
In late summer, you may divide well-established clumps and replant bulbs.
Crown imperial flowers aren’t bothered by many pests. Deer, squirrels, and rabbits tend to avoid the plants, thanks to the strongly scented foliage. However, you may find slugs or snails attracted to the foliage.
If plants are too close together or too wet, they may experience root rot, rust, or leaf spot. Prevent these diseases by planting in well-draining soil and ensuring airflow.
Best Companion Plants for Crown Imperial
Crown imperial flowers look amazing when planted with other spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, grape hyacinths, and daffodils.
They also look wonderful with hosta, with the flowers rising above the lush foliage. Ferns and forsythia are other good choices for companion planting.
Some of my favorite options for companion plants for Crown Imperial include:
Tulips (Tulipa spp.):
I love planting Crown Imperial alongside tulips to create a stunning combination of tall, upright stems and a variety of colors. Both flowers bloom in spring, making them a perfect match.
Alliums (Allium spp.):
Alliums, with their spherical flower heads and tall stalks, provide an exciting contrast to the Crown Imperial. The blooms of Alliums often appear after the Crown Imperial has finished flowering, extending the visual interest in the garden.
Irises (Iris spp.):
Irises offer a range of colors and forms that complement the showy appearance of Crown Imperial. The tall and slender iris foliage provides an attractive backdrop to the bold flowers of the Crown Imperial.
Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla):
Another one of my favorites is the delicate blue flowers and heart-shaped foliage of Siberian Bugloss to create a lovely contrast with the vibrant colors and vertical structure of the Crown Imperial.
Hostas (Hosta spp.):
Hostas, with their lush foliage and variety of leaf shapes, provide a beautiful foliage backdrop to the Crown Imperial. They can thrive in the partial shade often preferred by Crown Imperial.
Peonies (Paeonia spp.):
When planted near the Crown Imperial, the large, showy blooms of peonies create a stunning combination. Both flowers have a similar bloom time and add a touch of elegance to the garden.
Daffodils (Narcissus spp.):
Daffodils provide cheerful yellow or white blooms that pair well with the vibrant colors of the Crown Imperial. They both bloom in spring, creating a harmonious display.
Creative Uses for Crown Imperial
Crown imperial flowers add an exotic splash of color to the spring landscape. They work well in sites with dappled sun, and their 3-foot height makes them a good choice for mid-border plantings.
They’re also a good choice for rock gardens and informal, cottage-style gardens.
Crown Imperial Flower Crafts
It’s easy to keep your crown imperial blossoms looking lovely. Cut the flowers and place them on absorbent paper, such as a paper towel.
Arrange the flowers, stems, and foliage and cover them with another sheet of paper. Place the paper inside a heavy book, close the book, and weigh it down.
Let the flowers dry for at least a month before checking on them. Leave them until they’re completely dry, then set them with a setting spray.
Crown Imperial Flowers FAQs:
How long do Crown Imperial bloom for?
Crown imperial flowers usually start blooming in mid-spring — April or May. They’ll bloom into June.
What is the ideal climate for growing Crown Imperial?
Crown imperial flowers grow in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8. Choose a site with full to partial sun and well-draining soil.
Can Crown Imperial grow in containers or indoors?
You can grow crown imperials flowers in containers. Just ensure the container drains well, and add some perlite or sand to the potting mix to ensure the soil doesn’t get waterlogged.
How often should I water my Crown Imperial?
Water your crown imperial regularly when it’s in active growth and bloom. Water less once the plants are dormant in the summer.
When is the best time of year to plant Crown Imperial?
Plant crown imperial bulbs in the fall as soon as they’re available. Don’t delay, as the bulbs can easily retain water and rot.
How can I protect my Crown Imperial from pests and diseases?
To prevent diseases, avoid overwatering and ensure plants are adequately spaced (at least one foot apart). Fortunately, deer, rabbits, and rodents tend to avoid the plants, thanks to their skunky, intense odor.
How can I extend the lifespan of Crown Imperial after they’ve been cut?
Keep blooms fresh by removing all foliage below the water line and changing the water frequently. Avoid placing cut flowers in direct sun, near heat sources, or near drafts.
Crown Imperial Flowers – Wrapping Up
Crown imperial flowers certainly live up to their name. Clusters of warm-toned, cup-shaped flowers are topped with a dramatic “crown” of tufted foliage, creating an eye-catching look for your garden. The plants’ rich history and symbolism, along with their dramatic appearance, make F. imperialis a symbolic and lovely choice for the spring landscape.
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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