Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crocosmia - Bold, Beautiful, Easy To Grow

If the time has come for you to quit fussing over difficult plants, it's time for you to plant Crocosmia.  It's native to South Africa and northward to Malawi.  Crocosmia (pronounced kroh-KOZ-mee-uh) is a member of the Iridaceae family along with Gladiolus, Iris and Crocus.  The name, derived from Greek, means "smells like saffron" crocus.  There are about a dozen species, a few natural hybrids and about 120 cultivars.  Plant size ranges from 10" to 48" and more.  About a dozen flowers, carried on each long arching stem, may be yellow, shades of orange to red.  The colors are as hot as the bloom season: summer to fall.

Crocosmia's resemblance to gladiolus is unmistakable.  The sword-like foliage adds vertical emphasis to the garden while the bold, blazing flowers add drama.  Leaves may be evergreen or deciduous.

Corms produce more corms, and more and more, stacked on top of each other.  Older corms tend to be pulled deeper into the soil as the younger ones grow on top.  The arrangement looks like a chain of little biscuits.  The corms can be separated and replanted elsewhere.  Crocosmia also reproduces from seed.  Within a few seasons, you could have a dense bed of gorgeous, fiery blossoms.

They are superb for bulb borders, perennial gardens and even for naturalizing in meadows.  You can grow them in containers, too.  Tuck a few crocosmia corms anywhere you want a dash of color.  By the way, they attract lots of butterflies and hummingbirds!

Crocosmia normally thrives in USDA climate zones 6 through 9, so gardeners in most parts of the U.S. can enjoy them.  Some gardeners in climate zones 4 and 5 even report good success if the bed is mulched in winter.  Plant in full sun.  Average, well-drained garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine.

Before preparing your planting site, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office.  For a nominal fee, they will send the sample to a lab for analysis.  The analysis will normally be sent to you through the mail.  If the test results seem difficult to understand, don't hesitate to call your County Agent for explanation.

Crocosmia corms planted in fall will bloom the following year.  But the corms may also be planted in spring as you would gladiolus.  Unless you are naturalizing them in a meadow, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 10" deep.

Your soil sample report will include soil amendment and fertilizer recommendations based upon the results of the test.  Follow them.  A fine all-around practice for bulbs is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden.  Repeat the application when growth appears, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Crocosmia corms should be planted 3" deep.  Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole.  Recommended plant spacing is 6" to 10".

Crocosmia requires very little maintenance.  Plant them and forget about them.

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