Crocosmias, also called montbretia in the UK or coppertips in the United States, are perennials that provide branching heads of bright, sunny flowers and strong sword-shaped leaves so they provide structure and colour in a sunny summer border.
There are hundreds of crocosmia varieties 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.
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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.
Crocosmia masoniorum (giant montbretia)
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).
Crocosmia ‘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).
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Carmin Brilliant’
Dainty tomato-red flowers from July onwards (50cm).
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Emily McKenzie’
Large, crimson blotched dusky orange flowers in August and September (60cm)
Crocosmia × crocosmiiflora 'Star of the East'
Huge starry wide-open orange flowers until late October. (60cm)
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Coleton Fishacre' (‘Gerbe d’Or’)
The toughest bronze-leaved crocosmia with pumpkin-gold flowers on a small plant.
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Zeal Tan’
Fiery red flowers held on dark stems with darker foliage -one of the latest to flower (55cm).
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Honey Angels’
Diminutive plants with lots of apricot-yellow flowers - but for a hot spot (50cm).
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Walberton Yellow’
The best yellow with outward-facing flowers from July until September (60cm).
Crocosmia varieties clockwise from top right: 'Lucifer', crocosmia masoniorum (giant montbretia) and 'Star of the East'.
Where to plant crocosmia
These South African plants really need full sun and good soil to perform well. A good summer deluge suits them very well and the often flower more prolifically in the following months - as do kniphofias. Both tend to get summer rainfall in their native habitat - followed by coldish winters.
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.
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When to plant crocosmia bulbs
Crocosmia bulbs (technically corms)) should be planted in early spring.
How to plant crocosmia bulbs
Plant clusters of corms about 10cm deep so they grow in clumps.
When crocosmia flower
Crocosmia flowers can bloom between July and October, depending on variety. Flowers are usually bright orange, red or warm yellow.
When to divide crocosmia
A crocosmia 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.
Read our guide to dividing perennials
What to do about yellowing crocosmia foliage
It would be best to leave yellowing leaves if you can bear to, so that the corms are able to store lots of food for next year’s flowers. Most crocosmias don’t yellow after flowering. Their foliage endures into late autumn - albeit a little shabbily. However crocomias are South African plants and they like lots of summer moisture so if they leaves are yellowing they could be in a dry spot and therefore going into dormancy earlier. If the leaves really offend you, remove them. I suggest feeding the crocosmia plant next April just as it’s getting going. Use a high-potash slow release fertiliser such as Vitax Q4. All bulbous plants like to be well-drained in winter so if they are on heavy soil, dig up and divide and add some coarse grit before replanting.
Crocosmia in a cottage garden border.
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.
If you're planning on growing crocosmias for a warm colour scheme, read our suggestions for red flowers, orange flowers and yellow flowers
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