Crocosimia 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.
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
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.
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).
Soft-orange flowers that age to Devon-sandstone pink, This looks stunning in autumn light and flowers from August until October (75 cm).
Dainty tomato-red flowers from July onwards (50 cms).
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)
The toughest bronze-leaved crocosmia with pumpkin-gold flowers on a small plant.
Fiery red flowers held on dark stems with darker foliage -one of the latest to flower (55 cm).
Diminutive plants with lots of apricot-yellow flowers - but for a hot spot (50 cm).
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)