Brighten up your garden with varieties of Crocosmia

By Steve Smith

It is hard for me to focus on one variety of plant this time of year. There are so many fabulous summer blooming perennials (and a surprising number of shrubs) that are strutting their stuff in the months of July and August.

But this will focus on the genus Crocosmia – mostly because they are coming into full bloom and almost daily someone comes into the store with a sample flower wanting to know what it is.

Crocosmia, known as Montbretia, are hardy perennials that originate from South Africa and grow well in the Northwest, if planted in full sun. They have sword-like leaves that can reach up to 4-feet tall and will be covered with red, orange or yellow flowers. They are related to gladiolus and have the same bulb storage structure. They will multiply fast, and in a few years you will have a large clump, at which time you should probably divide them in the spring and share them with neighbors. Crocosmia are one of the most highly prized perennials for hummingbirds and other pollinators. They are easy to grow (our acidic soils are perfect, as long as there is good drainage) and the only pests that I have encountered are spider mites and thrips – both of which seem to be more of an issue on old, over-crowded clumps (these insects will turn the leaves a silvery brown). If that occurs, divide them. I just cut the foliage down to the ground after they bloom. Most of the taller varieties need staking or they will flop over.

As for varieties, there are probably hundreds of cultivars. They all make great garden plants as well as good cut flowers. I found no less than 12 on our benches the other day, and I am sure there are many more. Here are a few to consider:

•Lucifer — The old standby that most people first come to recognize. It’s a good strong grower with bright red flowers.

•Honey Angels — It’s more compact, reaching only 20 inches with finer, more-refined foliage. Flowers are soft yellow with honey tones.

•Limpopo — Reaches 36-inches tall with large 3-inch across peachy coral flowers with yellow throats. •Diabolito — A dwarf form of Lucifer growing only 36-inches tall, but with the same striking red flowers.

•Fire King — Orange flowers that mature to red on compact plants 24-inches tall.

•Nova Dragonfire — A compact grower with thick stems that don’t need staking. Flowers are deep red.

•Adrianna — She has lovely arching stems of glowing tangerine flowers with a deeper flash in the center, bordered in luminous gold. So there you have it, one variety of plant but many variations to choose from. Happy gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net

P.S. – Additionally, Sunnyside will be hosting a free class, “PNW Shade Gardening” taught by Smith July 20 at 10 a.m. at Sunnyside Nursery. For details go to www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

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