How to grow crocosmias

By Val Bourne

Acclaimed gardening writer, Val Bourne, introduces us to the best varieties of the crocosmia
Crocosimia Zeal TanCrocosimia Zeal Tan

Crocosmias provide branching heads of bright, sunny flowers and strong sword-shaped leaves so they provide structure and colour in the sunny border. There are hundreds on offer. But they vary in flowering times, flower colour and stature. They are all bred from South African species but despite this almost all of them are hardy and reliable in the garden - happily coming back year after year. The darker-leaved varieties tend to be less hardy however.

Where do I grow crocosmias?

These South African plants really need full sun and good soil to perform well. In 2007 the month-long July deluge suited them very well and they flowered more prolifically in the following months - as did kniphofias. Both tend to get summer rainfall in their native habitat - followed by coldish winters.

How to grow crocosmias

Most crocosmias thrive once planted in a sunny position and they form a tight clump and produce a lot of flowers. But their habit varies greatly according to cultivar and your location. In warmer areas crocosmias tend to grow larger. But if space is limited plant a smaller crocosmia - as some of the taller ones need lots of space.

Dividing crocosmias

A clump can usually be left undivided as the new corm forms above last year’s to produce a vertical chain of corms. This system ensures vigour is maintained from year to year as the old corms rot they feed the plant. If you do divide, do it in spring just as growth restarts.

Good plants to grow crocosmias with

Late-flowering shorter orange crocosmias are excellent with sun-seeking asters (like Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ or Aster amellus ‘Violet Queen’) or heleniums. They can also be planted in front of late-flowering aconitums like ‘Arendsii’.

The taller ones look good among grasses and these include the willowy Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea Transparent and the soft, fluffy Pennisetum orientale.

Early flowering varieties (like the red ‘Lucifer’) can be used with deep-blue catmints such as Nepeta subsessilis.

Later-flowering, fiery varieties can be woven up through purple dahlias like the cactus-flowered ‘Orfeo’ to make a vibrant contrast.

10 of the best varieties of crocosmias

‘Lucifer’

The first truly red crocosmia bred by Alan Bloom in the 1960s. This flowers in early July and is excellent with Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’. The bright-green pleated foliage is excellent.

Crocosmia masoniorum

A dramatic, vigorous species with upward-facing bronze-red flowers held in branching sprays above pleated green leaves. The winter seed head is stunning and this elegant crocosmia has a long flowering season - from late July until September (1m).

‘Severn Sunrise’

Soft-orange flowers that age to Devon-sandstone pink, This looks stunning in autumn light and flowers from August until October (75 cm).

‘Carmin Brilliant’

Dainty tomato-red flowers from July onwards (50 cms).

‘Emily McKenzie’

Large, crimson blotched dusky orange flowers in August and September (60 cms)

‘Star of the East’

Huge starry wide-open orange flowers until late October. (60 cm)

‘Gerbe d’Or’

The toughest bronze-leaved crocosmia with pumpkin-gold flowers on a small plant.

‘Zeal Tan’

Fiery red flowers held on dark stems with darker foliage -one of the latest to flower (55 cm).

‘Honey Angels’

Diminutive plants with lots of apricot-yellow flowers - but for a hot spot (50 cm).

‘Warburton’s Yellow’

The best yellow with outward-facing flowers from July until September (60 cm).

Where can I get crocosmias?

Cally Gardens (www.callygardens.co.uk)

Cotswold Garden Flowers (www.cgf.net)

Hillview Hardy Plants (www.hillviewhardyplants.com)

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  • The Crocosmia Gardens

    Posted: Monday 18 November 2013

    Hi Val, great article but must disagree on Gerbe d'Or which is actually Colten Seedling now, as Gerbe d'Orno longer exists, as being the hardiest bronze leaf variety, in our experience the hardiest bronze leaf yellow flower is c.Burford Bronze. All crocosmia will do well in a partly shaded bed also.
    For the other comments here...
    Trisha,George Davison is a Large Orange-Yellow flower and gets to 75 to 90cm tall.
    Marion, we cut the flower stalks out and leave leaves till sp

  • marion mcinnes

    Posted: Saturday 31 August 2013

    wanted to know when to cut back sword leaves .after flowering in autumn or wait till spring

  • Tricia Lancaster

    Posted: Thursday 02 August 2012

    Very good and informative, but was looking for planting info and height/spread etc for the crocosmia plant - "George Davison" which I believe has yellow flowers. Can you help please? With than ks

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