Rotting Imperial fritillaria bulbs


Don’t seem to have much luck with a second season of fritillaria bulbs. They appear to rot after one season. I have just dug up the bulbs and have already noticed some rot. What can I do to stop the rot?
I’m in Ontario Canada
My soil is mainly triple mix with some sand.
It has been a wet summer so far.
They were beautiful this spring but I want them to come back next spring. All previous attempts have failed so this year I dug them up in hope to stop them from rotting.
Suggestions please.


Hello and thankyou for consulting Toronto Master Gardeners about your rotting fritillaria bulbs. These gorgeous flowers tend to be more finicky and prone to rot than some other bulbs so let’s look at some possibilities.

You had success with them last year , so we will assume that your planting was fine ( quality bulbs , suitable light conditions , suitable hardiness zone, for example ) . Your triple mix and sand mixture sounds good, but the rot you are experiencing suggests that your drainage could be better . You could try adding even more sand or perlite .

Fritillaria imperialis can catch moisture in the tops of the bulbs where a hole has been left from the previous year’s stem. Retained moisture will cause them to rot so to avoid this , when you replant them , try filling the bottoms of planting holes with gritty sand and placing the bulbs on their sides. All Fritillaria are very sensitive to over-handling and bruise easily so handle with care.

Some sources suggest improving drainage by planting in raised beds, and that might work in a mild hardiness zone (You mention your Ontario location which has many hardiness zones you could investigate by “googling” “ Ontario Hardiness Zones”). It might be worth an experiment . Given the vagaries of our weather however, we will not feel guilty if we do not achieve the dry winters and summers needed.

While no fertilizer is required the first season, after the first season of blooms they benefit from an organic compost. Congratulations if you let the foliage die back naturally after flowering which makes for a more vigorous bulb overall.

You mention that you have dug them up. One gardener we know of was happily surprised to find them regrowing in pots after having cut out all the rotten parts and planted the fragments. Perhaps worth an experiment?

Good luck with this.