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Crocosmia are South African relative of the familiar gladiolus. You can see it in the foliage. Same narrow, sword shape. Leaves that originate near the base rather than along the stem. Crocosmia were brought to Europe in the mid-1800s and became increasingly popular over time. By the 1920s, hundreds of crocosmia cultivars had been created and flowering clumps could be found in most flower gardens.
Everything changed with the onset of World War II. During that period, gardeners were encouraged to “Dig for Victory” and to replace ornamental gardens with vegetable plots to support the war effort. Crocosmia, or montbretia as this plant is called in Europe, was uprooted and tossed in the compost heap. With time, crocosmias have made a comeback and are increasingly included in mixed perennial borders. Hip, hip, hurrah!
Crocosmia prefer full sun sites in most of the country, but do appreciate a bit of afternoon shade in the hottest regions. These plants thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Where happy, they may naturalize and spread. Crocosmia are good choices for breezy sites because their foliage bends with the winds rather than breaking.
Average, moderately fertile soil with medium amounts of moisture will support crocosmia. Adding a slow release fertilizer when you plant can be helpful if your soil is a bit lean.
Plant crocosmia corms outdoors when frost danger has past. Once established, crocosmia can manage moderately cold weather.
The corms of crocosmia look a bit like large crocus bulbs, with pointed tops and bottoms that are often slightly indented. The bottoms also can be identified because there’s sometimes a dark circle there. Plant with the points facing upwards and cover with 3-4” of soil. Water well to settle the soil around the corms.
Crocosmia plants take a few seasons to fill out into nice big clumps. Give the bulbs water every few days as they settle in, assuming Mother Nature doesn't take care of that for you, and expect to see slender blade-like sprouts in a few weeks.
Crocosmia require about an inch of moisture total weekly and beside that, need little care during the growing season. You can trim off spent flowers to keep the plants looking their best. Feel free to cut flowers and buds for arrangements.
Late in the fall, or in the spring before new growth appears, trim your crocosmia foliage to an inch or two above soil level. This will allow the fresh leaves to grow unencumbered and will keep your garden looking neat.
When crocosmia clumps grow large they may be divided for rejuvenation and for additional plants. Dig, split with a shovel and replant in spring just as the new season’s sprouts are beginning to appear. Water daily for a week while the plants resettle. Flowering may be reduced that first season as the plants reestablish.
Light: Full sun to 3/4 day sun
Depth: Cover with 4" of soil
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Beds, mixed borders and edges
Tip: Excellent cut flowers; other worldly buds
They Start Out looking Like This:
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