Fritillaria meleagris 'Saturnus'
Fritillaria meleagris ‘Saturnus’

With over 200 different species and a number of sub species Fritillaria are a bulb found in Asia, Europe as well as North America. These fascinating plants come in many forms and colors, are an enchanting and even addictive species to collect.

Fritillaria Flower
Fritillaria Flower

Often promoted as ‘easy care bulbs’ this is true of some species, and far from true for others.

While it is true that the North American species can be fairly well pinned down to USDA zones, this is not so easy with the Asian and European species. So forget the general ‘easy care in zone 3 – 8’ and look carefully at the individual species.

Actual bulb size varies greatly from large bulbs as big as a baseball, to small pea sized types.

List Of Fritillaria


Growing Fritillaria Bulbs from seed.

With a little patience you can grow your own from seed, such as F. sibthorpiana.

  • Seed germinate best if sown fresh in autumn on the surface of a seed raising mix, and covered by a thin (2mm) layer of fine gravel, we use deep pots rather than trays as these are bulbs that tend to want pull themselves down to quite a depth.
  • Germination is not always obvious as fritillaria first send down a long root, the bulb then forms at the end of the root. In general young plants should be left in the pot for 2-3 years, do not prick them out to smaller pots until the bulb is well formed 2nd or 3rd year at least.
  • After seeds have germinated liquid feed once a month during the growing season.
  • After the second or third year you can divide the new bulbs and replant them at the same depth. Keep in part shade for another year or two before planting into the garden.

Buying Fritillaria Bulbs

Essentially this is an ‘online’ experience.

Fritillaria bulbs do not cope well with being ‘out of the ground’.
So life on the rack of a nursery, or big box is not suitable.
A few nurseries will sell potted specimens when in flower.
However it is generally the specialist Fritillaria nurseries that can provide the best quality bulbs.

More information

You can grow these fascinating bulbs either in the garden or containers.

Fritillaria Varieties

This is another area that is commonly generalized a little to much.

The common name ‘snakeshead lily’ (Fritillaria meleagris – pictured right) , ‘checkered lily’ and ‘guinea hen flower’ apply to only a few species.

And the wonderful ‘Crown Imperial’ can apply to a number of varieties.

For information on different species, a long with some more specific growing notes we provide individual sections for a number of popular species.