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Crocosmia brightens up summer garden

by JoAnne Skelly

I’ve fallen in love with some impressive summer-blooming plants given to me by my friend Peggy. They are Crocosmia Lucifer, sometimes called coppertips. Grown from corms, which are swollen, underground plant stems, I planted them two years ago and got only one flower stalk out of 20 corms last summer. The corms probably weren’t large enough to produce flowers that year. However, this year they are blooming prolifically and I’m thrilled.

With their thin blade-like leaves, similar to gladiolus, reaching 2-4 feet in height on delicate stems, the flowers are 8 inches long and the florets are bright red with yellow throats. In time the plants will multiply and spread about 12 inches. They take a medium amount of water in a well-drained, fairly fertile soil. They appreciate some afternoon shade in the hot summer, although they can tolerate full sun in cooler locations and produce more flowers with more sun. This variety ‘Lucifer’ should tolerate temperatures down to -10 degrees with winter mulch.

Not only do I love the rich red color, I’m thrilled that these are hummingbird magnets. The birds visit them every day. They perch on the flower stalks checking out each floret for nectar. I have one placed right outside my kitchen window, so I can watch the hummers up close. Although they are supposed to make great cut flowers, I think I will leave mine for the birds.

I have read that crocosmia may get spider mites, but mine get spray from the drip emitters which keeps mites at bay.

You may want to make note to plant crocosmia in your yard next spring. Loosen the soil 6 inches deep, but plant the corms only 3 inches to 4 inches deep. Put several corms in each hole about 3 inches apart. Cover with soil. Tamp it down and water lightly. Once the soil has warmed in spring, the shoots will begin to develop. They need little fertilizer, although I did fertilize when the shoots were about 12 inches tall. Too much fertilizer will encourage leaf growth rather than flower development.

After blooming I will need to cut the flower stems back to the foliage, then let the foliage continue to grow. Once large clumps develop, I may need to divide them as Peggy did when she gave me these. This takes place in early fall. However, I won’t have to think about that for a few years.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at skellyj@unce.unr.edu.