Fast becoming one of the most popular summer blooming perennials, crocosmias are a delight in our gardens for many reasons.
Formerly known as montbretias, they are related to freesias, ixias and sparaxis. Native to many areas of southern Africa, they love well-drained soils and hot sunny locations, and they are very drought tolerant.
It is critical to plant them in open porous soils so they can multiply and to prevent excessive winter rains from rotting the corms. Hardy to Zone 6, they will do well even in colder parts of the eastern Valley, but in very exposed areas, a little mulching will ensure their survival.
It’s wonderful to have a good source for cut flowers in our summer gardens, and cut crocosmias last for almost two weeks in a vase. Their warm summer colours of reds, oranges and yellows blend well with other cuts, creating great potential for amazing combinations.
Crocosmias naturalize well, are ideal for background plantings, and the red varieties attract hummingbirds and bees.
You’ll find them in bud and bloom in garden stores right about now, and you can expect them to bloom from July to September once they are well established.
The great thing is you can see various colours at this time of year and combine them with other sun loving perennials for a delightful show. They can be planted in spring as corms, but the selection of varieties is usually not as large as it is at this time of year.
Reds are the most popular colour, and the very tall Lucifer is, by far, the most spectacular. Growing to 100 centimeters (40 inches), its brilliant red blooms add vibrancy to any garden and boy, do the hummingbirds ever know where to find them!
New this year are Lucifer Yellow and Lucifer Orange – great options for some interesting combinations.
Two short varieties, Little Redhead and Miss Scarlet, have arrived on the market recently. Both are brilliant reds but grow only 61 cms (24 inches) tall. They’re ideal for smaller gardens and spaces. Emily McKenzie has intense orange blooms with striking red throats and is one of my favourites. It grows to about 76 cms (30 inches) tall and has particularly long blooming flowers.
Crocosmia Burnt Umber is a very nice brick red colour with a stunning yellow throat, and it grows to about 91 cms (36 inches) tall. I love its bronze foliage.
George Davidson is a beautiful golden yellow and grows much lower at 45 cms (18 inches) and is very long blooming. Solfatare, with bronze foliage complementing its golden yellow flowers, is a RHS award winner, and it too is much shorter, about the same height as George Davidson.
Many of these gorgeous varieties are seldom seen in our modern small space gardens. What a shame. Now is a great time to visit garden stores and discover these summer beauties.
Brian Minter is a master gardener.