Snake's head fritillaries always excite attention wherever they are seen. None of the other lovely members of the fritillaria genus can match this native wildflower for the bizarre and unmistakable colouring of its bell-shaped flowers.
Flowers are various shades of purple, always with a pronounced checked pattern all over. Even the luminous white form (Fritillaria meleagris var. unicolour subvar. alba) has a faint check pattern like a watermark.
The delightful snake's head fritillaries are perfect for naturalising in a moist woodland edge or wildflower garden. Plant in drifts under shrubs or naturalised in grass. It is essential to select a site where the soil remains moist in summer where they can multiply.
Extremely hardy and trouble-free, they will always attract attention in a woodland garden, rockery, or naturalised in grass where they look magical.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Fritillaria meleagris has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow March to September or October to February.
Seeds need a period of cold to germinate. They can be left outdoors to go through the seasons naturally or germination hastened by “stratification” (imitating the seasons)
Sowing March to September.
Hastening germination by using stratification. Sow in John Innes seed compost or something similar, place each container in a polythene bag and put into the refrigerator (not the freezer compartment) for 2-3 weeks.
After this time place the containers outside in a cold frame or plunge them up to the rims in a shady part of the garden border and cover with glass or clear plastic.
Some of the seeds may germinate during the spring and summer and these should be transplanted when large enough to handle. The remainder of the seeds may lay dormant until next spring. Germination is irregular often over several months. As each seed germinates transplant it almost immediately into its own pot.
Sowing October to February.
Sow the seeds in John Innes seed compost, covering them with a thin layer of compost. After watering, place the seed container outside against a North wall or in a cold frame, making sure they are protected against mice, and leave them there until the spring.
The compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times, if the seed containers are out in the open then some shelter has to be given against excessive rain.
In the spring bring the seed containers into the greenhouse or indoors on to a well lit but not sunny windowsill and keep the compost moist. This should trigger off germination. If the seeds do not germinate in the spring keep them in cool moist conditions throughout the summer.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Plant out in spring into well drained soil. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out.
Grows well in most fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soils and prefers cool, moist summers. Divide offsets, or collect and sow ‘rice-grain’ bulbils in late summer. Handle the fragile bulbs carefully and plant at four times own depth.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flowers Borders and Beds, Rock Garden or Wildflower Gardens. Suitable for rock garden, raised bed or naturalising in grass
The Snake's Head Fritillary is native to Europe, but in many places, including France, Slovenia and Romania it is an endangered species that is rarely found in the wild, but is common in horticulturists' gardens.
Fritillaria is taken from the Latin, ‘fritillus’, ‘dice-box’ as the flowers of a number of species have markings reminiscent of dice. Gerard, however, disputes this saying it comes from the chess board based on a translation of ‘frittillo’ as ‘tables’, i.e. the tables at which men sat to play dice and chess.
The name meleagris means ‘spotted like a guinea fowl’ because of the patterning of the flowers. Meleagris is the genus of both wild and domestic turkeys but the guinea fowl is classified as Numida meleagris. Gerard calls the plant ‘Turkie or Ginny-hen flour’.
A flower from the family Liliaceae, the original English name was Snake's Head. In northern Europe they are simply called Fritillary, from this the common name of Snake's Head Fritillary has developed.
Other names include Chequered Lily Checkered Daffodil, Frog-cup, Guinea-hen Flower and Leper Lily.
The Fritillaria are yet more plants which were said to be growing near Christ's crucifixion leading them to hang their heads in sorrow which they still do today.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 150mg Average Seed Count 50 Seeds Seeds per gram 200 seeds per gram Family Liliaceae Genus Fritillaria Species meleagris Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Common Name Snake's Head Fritillary, Chequered Lily,
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Checkered Daffodil, Frog-cup, Guinea-hen Flower and Leper Lily. Hardiness Hardy Perennial Natural Flower Time March to May Height 25cm (12in) Spread 5 to 8cm (2-3in) Position Partial Shade Soil Humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil Time to Sow Sow as soon as possible at any time of year. Germination Germination is irregular often over several months.