Crocosmia 'Lucifer'. Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

One of the best ways to break your garden out of the summer doldrums is to plant colorful summer-blooming bulbs and tubers, such as gladioli and tuberous begonias. Typically planted in the spring, these warm-weather bloomers usually don’t survive cold winters if the bulbs are left in the ground. However, one notable exception is Crocosmia.

Despite its tropical origin, this vigorous perennial is hardy down to zone 5 and can stay in the ground year-round in all but the harshest climates, reliably blooming season after season. The lily-like flowers—in blazingly bright shades of red, orange and yellow—light up summer garden beds and borders and are especially irresistible to hummingbirds. Even when Crocosmia are not in bloom, their fountain-shaped clumps of spiky foliage offer contrasting form and vertical interest.

On this page: The Basics | Planting | Care | Pictures | Crocosmia In Your Garden

THE BASICS

Botanical name:

Crocosmia; derived from the Greek words krokos (saffron) and osme (smell) because the dried flowers smell similar to saffron when steeped in water. Cultivars labeled as Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora are hybrids of multiple wild Crocosmia species.

Common names:

Montbretia, coppertips, falling stars

Plant type:

Herbaceous perennial, grown from clump-forming corms

Zones:

Use as a perennial in zones 5-9. In colder climates, you may need to lift the corms in the fall and store them indoors over winter.

Height:

1½ to 4 feet, depending on the variety

Exposure:

Thrives in full sun but also grows well in partial shade, although it may not flower as prolifically.

Bloom Time:

Mid to late summer

Color and characteristics:

Like Gladiolus, Crocosmia are members of the iris family (Iridaceae) and have similar swordlike foliage and flowers that open in succession from the bottom up. The trumpet-shaped blooms are lined up in rows along arching flower stalks and have prominent stamens and stigmas that flare out well beyond the petals. Although the color palette is limited to various shades of yellow, orange, and red, some cultivars are enhanced by attractive throat markings.

Special attributes:

  • Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Excellent for cutting
  • Naturalizes readily

PLANTING

When to plant:

In spring, after the danger of frost has passed. Crocosmia can be slow to sprout, especially if temperatures are cool. To jumpstart growth, wait until soil and air temperatures warm up.

How to plant:

In garden beds, plant the corms 2 to 3 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches apart, with the pointed end facing up. Mass the corms together in groups of 10 or more for the best effect. If growing in containers, plant to the same depth in any well-drained good-quality potting mix in a pot with adequate drainage holes. Learn more about planting and caring for bulbs.

Soil:

Prefers moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Avoid planting in heavy clays or soggy sites.

CARE

Crocosmia seedpod. Photo by: Iva Villi / Shutterstock.

Watering:

Water as needed during the growing season to keep the soil evenly moist, giving your plants about an inch of water weekly.

Fertilizing:

Feed after initial planting or in early spring with a balanced slow-release fertilizer formulated for bulbs and tubers.

After blooming:

Crocosmia are self-cleaning and once the flowers are spent, they will simply fall off, giving way to attractive seedpods that persist into fall. After blooming is over, leave the foliage in place so it can gather sunlight to nourish next year’s growth. When the leaves die back naturally late in the fall, you can cut them back to an inch or two above ground level.

Dividing:

Crocosmia multiplies enthusiastically and should be divided every 2 to 3 years to prevent overcrowding and to keep them vigorous. The plant develops cormlets along its roots, making it very easy to propagate. With a gentle twist, simply break apart the offsets you find attached to the base of the main corm and replant them. You can lift and divide congested clumps in fall or in the spring before new growth starts.

Winter protection:

Because Crocosmia are more cold-hardy than Gladiolus, you can usually leave the corms to overwinter in the ground without having to dig them up. To help ensure their survival, cover them with a layer of mulch to insulate them from severe cold snaps. If you live in zone 4 or below, don’t take chances. Lift the corms and store them in a cool, dry location over winter and replant them in the spring.

Diseases and Pests:

Although impervious to most pests and diseases, crocosmias are particularly susceptible to spider mites. Avoid an infestation by hosing the leaves down with a spray of water once or twice a week. This will dislodge any mites and create an inhospitable environment.

CROCOSMIA PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Height: 3 to 4 feet

Spread: 12 to 18 inches

Bloom Time: June to August

One of the best-known cultivars, with magnificent scarlet-red flowers borne on long purple-tinted stems. Grows to as tall as 4 feet, making it ideal for the back of the border. The attractive, slightly pleated leaves add textural interest throughout the growing season.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie'

Height: 2 to 2 -1/2 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: August to September

This smaller cultivar produces downward-facing bright orange flowers with dramatic crimson throat markings. Dark purple calyxes contrast beautifully with the vivid orange buds and blossoms.

Photo by: Derek Harris Photography / Shutterstock.

'George Davidson'
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora

Height: 18 to 24 inches

Spread: 18 inches

Bloom Time: June to August

This lovely heirloom—dating back to1900—starts off with bright orange buds that open to reveal rich golden-yellow flowers beginning in early summer. One of the first to bloom, with a long flowering period that lasts for months.

Photo by: High Mountain / Shutterstock.

'Fire King'
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora

Height: 2 feet

Spread: 12 to 18 inches

Bloom Time: July to September

This aptly named hybrid represents the full crocosmia color spectrum, bearing an abundance of deep orange blooms that mature to an intense fiery red with yellow throats. The brilliantly colored flowers heat up the late summer garden while attracting a multitude of hummingbirds and bees.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Crocosmia 'Walbreyes'

Height: 18 to 24 inches

Spread: 12 to 18 inches

Bloom Time: July to September

Also called 'Bright Eyes', this recently introduced cultivar features intense tangerine-orange blooms that turn upward to better display their ornate scarlet throats. The flowers are spaced more closely together than those of other varieties, creating greater visual impact. This sterile variety will also continue to bloom heavily throughout the growing season without becoming overcrowded.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Crocosmia 'Prince of Orange'

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 12 to 18 inches

Bloom Time: Mid to late summer

While some Crocosmia cultivars boast distinctive color variations, this newcomer earns bragging rights for its exceptionally large seedpods in the fall, which are ideal for use in dried flower arrangements. It’s also more prolific than most, with each stem flaunting 20 or more vivid reddish-orange flowers enhanced by yellow throats and burgundy speckles.

CROCOSMIA IN YOUR GARDEN

  • Use as a focal point in garden beds and borders
  • Plant in mass for greater impact
  • Design container arrangements using as a centerpiece, or "thriller"
  • A perfect choice for pollinator gardens
  • Add to a cut flower garden for mid and late-summer bouquets
  • Crocosmia adds foliar interest to gardens with its slender, strap-shaped leaves

RELATED:
Bulbs for Your Garden
21 Easiest Flowers for Beginners
21 Low-Maintenance Plants

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