Low maintenance, easy to grow, and sprays of vividly colored flowers — what's not to love about crocosmia? This African native is a compact flowering plant that does well in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Crocosmia, also known as coppertips or montbretia, is a bright and colorful addition to the garden and great at attracting of both butterflies and hummingbirds. If you're looking for an attractive new flower to add to your ornamental garden this year, crocosmia is an excellent choice.
Crocosmia is most commonly purchased as a bulb and does not need any special care when transporting. Store bulbs in a dry location safe from freezing temperatures until you're ready to use them. If you don't want to take the time to grow a crocosmia from a bulb, mature potted plants are available, but they may not adapt well when transplanted to a garden if they have been grown exclusively indoors.
Crocosmia does best planted in fertile, slightly acidic soil. Plant each bulb approximately 6 to 8 inches apart in a 2 to 3-inch deep hole. You can grow individual plants, but most people prefer the look of multiple bulbs planted in a cluster. Even if you only plant one, over time new shoots will begin to appear.
A bright area of full sun is best for crocosmia. This plant tends to wilt when planted in shaded areas, diminishing the impact of its brightly colored spray of flowers. In areas where the summers are sweltering, it's a good idea to give crocosmia a bit of shade when the sun is highest to avoid the damaging the plant.
Crocosmia does not require regular watering, as the bulb root is very efficient at holding water. To avoid overwatering that can damage the roots, check the soil around your plant and only water when it feels dry to the touch. Otherwise, regular exposure to rainfall should be enough to keep this plant well-hydrated and looking beautiful.
As with other ornamental flowering plants, it's best to keep fertilizers away from crocosmia if you want high-quality flowers. If given too many nutrients, the plant will put more energy into creating foliage at the expense of the delicate flowers.
Planting crocosmia in fertile soil will provide all the nutrients it needs, no supplementation required.
Gardeners in USDA zones five through nine will have no trouble growing crocosmia directly in their garden beds. If you live outside of these zones but still want to grow this lush, flowering plant, your best bet is to grow your crocosmia in a pot and bring it indoors before the first freeze.
Crocosmia only requires minimal pruning and care. Remove wilted flowers from the plant as they die off, but do not remove the leaves. The leaves allow the plant to build up the necessary energy stores to support flowering the following year. Weeding around the plant is essential to keep crocosmia from being outcompeted by other plants.
While the bulb of crocosmia is fairly winter-hardy, the stems need a little extra care to keep them healthy in the cold. Before the first freeze, cover the plant with garden cloth or burlap to protect them from the frigid temps. If you live in an area with long, harsh winters, add a layer of mulch around the base of the stems before covering the plant to keep the bulb protected.
For the best chance of success, propagate crocosmia through division. However, do not attempt this with immature or unsettled plants, as dividing them too early can kill the plant.
After the ground has thawed in early spring, divide mature crocosmia roots into two or three pieces and then plant the individual pieces before they have a chance to dry out.
The disease most likely to affect crocosmia is bulb rot, a bacterial infection that infects the bulb in wet conditions. Bulb rot causes stunted growth, yellow leaves and can even stop your plant from emerging in the spring altogether.
Once bulb rot has set in, there is no way to cure it, so it's vital to protect your plant by ensuring it's planted in well-drained soil and not overwatered.
Pests are usually not a problem for crocosmia, but spider mites will occasionally take up residence if the soil is particularly dry. These small bugs related to spiders are easy to spot with the naked eye. To clear up a spider mite infestation, you can mist the plant to knock the mites off and remove dead or dying leaves.
If the infestation is severe, an insecticidal spray will take care of any lingering unwelcomed guests.
A single plant in a pot is enough for most indoor spaces, but in a garden, crocosmia makes the biggest impact when grouped together. With their striking and deeply colored blooms, crocosmia begs to be put front and center with a backdrop of leafy green plants. It can also be used as a dramatic edging to a pathway for a romantic fairytale look.
In the same family as crocosmia, gladiolus offers a similar spray of flowers in striking colors but has a more bell-shaped bloom.
If you don't have the full sun required for crocosmia, dierama is a good alternative. This plant sports similarly rich colored, delicate flowers but prefers a dappled or even full-shade environment.
The name Crocosmia comes from the Greek words for saffron and odor, and the plant is so named because the dried leaves emit a strong saffron smell when mixed with hot water. However, before you go making a tea with your crocosmia flowers, be cautioned that the plant is mildly poisonous, so it's best to keep it out of your custom tea blend and away from pets and small children.
Crocosmia is available in almost every color of the rainbow and a plethora of fun and exciting patterns. Lucifer is a popular variety, named for the tall sprays of intensely dark red flowers that dot the tips of its stems. The citronella variety is less intense, with small, bright yellow flowers. For a two-toned look, consider the Emily McKenzie, which features large yellow flowers with red stripes.