Nodding flower clusters of montbretia (Crocosmia spp.) dance on arching stems, bringing fiery hues of red and orange to late-summer gardens. Each cluster has several delicate 2-inch flowers rising above swordlike foliage that’s similar to gladiolus foliage. Montbretia is lovely in containers and makes a great cut flower. It tolerates summer heat, humidity, and sun.
Common names: Montbretia, crocosmia, falling star
Botanical name: Crocosmia spp.
Plant type: Clump-forming, cormous perennial
Height: 16 to 36 inches tall, depending on cultivar; a few species reach 4 to 5 feet tall.
Zones: 6 to 9
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Humus-rich, with good drainage to prevent corm rot
- Moisture: Medium
- Fertilizer: Applya 5-10-5 fertilizer when shoots appear. Reapply in midsummer.
- Mulch: Cover with organic mulch after soil begins to freeze at end of season.
- Pruning: Trim spent blooms.
- ‘Babylon’ (pictured) has red-orange blossoms. Flower stems grow 30 inches tall; foliage reaches 18 inches tall.
- ‘Emberglow’ has dark red flowers and grows 24 to 30 inches tall. Zones 6 to 9.
- ‘Emily McKenzie’ has bronze-tinted foliage and yellow-orange flowers with mahogany markings. Grows 24 to 30 inches tall. Zones 6 to 9.
- ‘Lady Hamilton’ has apricot blossoms with red streaks. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall. Zones 6 to 9.
- ‘Lucifer’ has red flowers and grows 48 to 46 inches tall. Zones 6 to 9.
- Plant corms in spring 2 to 3 inches deep and 8 inches apart. The plant looks more attractive when several are planted together.
- Divide clumps every two to three years in spring.
- In regions colder than Zone 6, lift corms in fall, cut off stems, and store in a dry potting medium with soil still clinging to them.
- Good companions include Shasta daisy, peony, asters, monkshood, and foxglove.
- In some areas of the United States, montbretia is invasive. Check with your local nursery, garden center, or cooperative extension service.
- Spider mites damage foliage.
- Sow seeds in containers when ripe.
- Divide in spring before new growth begins.
All in the family
Members of the Iridaceae family include cultivated iris, Mexican shell flower, leopard flower, crocus, freesia, and gladiolus. These perennials all have underground storage organs of rhizomes, bulbs, or corms; swordlike leaves; and flowers with three sepals and three petals.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers, www.monrovia.com.