We hope you have enjoyed the SRGC Forum. You can make a Paypal donation to the SRGC by clicking the above button

Author Topic: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them  (Read 2772 times)


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« on: March 02, 2021, 09:23:33 PM »
This post is a bit of a confessional. Over the years, I have killed a lot of Fritillaria seed. Every year I order seed, mainly from the seed exchanges, and sow it in the normal way (shallow in gritty compost, layer of grit or perlite). Then it goes into the cold frame. And every year, if anything comes up at all, I end up with a pot like this. These were sown in January 2020 from the SRGC seed exchange.


However, last year, after quite a few goes, last year I managed to finally get some seed raised F. pyrenaica to flower, and got the bug.

This year I made quite a few changes to how I grow Frits from seed to try to improve my success rate. I haven't experimented so I don't know which is the most important, but here's what I did:

- Get fresh seed from good sources (I joined the Frit group)
- Sow Eurasian species in autumn only. Mine were sown between August and early December. I think August is a bit early - seed sown then germinated in November and then had to be coaxed through winter with some damping off issues. December is a bit late, but some seed arrived late and I split the batch, sowing half and storing half.
- Then, they were kept in pots at ambient temperature for a few weeks before being placed in the fridge.
- Pots were checked every week or so from mid November, watering if necessary, and removed if they had germinated.

The results are pictured below. Most of my pots sown have shown at least some germination, the only ones that have not are F. pontica substipetala and F. collina, and in the latter case I suspect this may be because the seed was sown rather late. Rather than a few straggly seedlings, I have hundreds of seedlings from more than 25 species.

Almost all of these are Frits, except for a couple of pots of Erythronium which were sown from the SRGC seedex in January 2020 and have germinated profusely this spring with no ill effects from being in the cold frame. However, I have removed these and all other bulb pots from there to the conservatory where I can keep an eye on them and give them a bit more light.

Now, you can of course sow your fritillary seed at any time of year, but it seems that it won't start to germinate until autumn and by sowing in early spring, I was just giving the seed an opportunity to rot. Additionally, the pots often got covered with moss and liverworts, making it more difficult for seedlings to penetrate. Finally, seed can germinate in midwinter when I was less likely to check the pots and when slugs or other pests may eat the seedlings. The result is a very low success rate.

Of course, as with any advice about growing bulbs from seed, Ian has got there first! (see bulblog no. 48, 2016). But I hope that my pictures and description help to reinforce his advice.

Germinating F. pyrenaica from my own seed.


These F. latifolia are a bit later than most but I'm really excited about getting a chance to grow this lovely plant.

Now that the weather has warmed up a bit I'm moving the seedlings into the sunshine outdoors where there is less risk of damping off and to toughen them up a bit. There is then just the small matter of growing these on to flowering!

I hope this will provide others with some pointers to growing these lovely plants from seed. I still have a lot to learn about this group but there is plenty to work with here.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 09:26:58 PM by Tristan_He »

Maggi Young

  • Forum Dogsbody
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 44686
  • Country: scotland
  • "There's often a clue"
    • International Rock Gardener e-magazine
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2021, 10:58:46 PM »
Wow!  "If at first  you don't  succeed ..... "   8)
Margaret Young in Aberdeen, North East Scotland Zone 7 -ish!

Editor: International Rock Gardener e-magazine


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2021, 11:57:09 PM »
Well, yes, I am nothing if not stubborn Maggi!  ;D

But I do think my experience emphasises how important Ian's advice about a sowing window for Frits is. It's funny that this isn't mentioned more widely, but maybe for growers in drier climates it's not such an issue. I actually first read this about two weeks after sowing my 2019-20 SRGC seeds, unfortunately.

Ian Y

  • Bulb Despot
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2119
  • Country: scotland
  • Why grow one bulb when you can grow two:-))
    • Direct link to the Bulb Log SRGC
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2021, 01:06:57 PM »
A great post Tristan and good advice - the best way to learn anything is to find out for your self by trying and observing as you have done.
I share my experiences hoping to give people a head start but by my own rules I would not have believed me until I had tested it:-)

The time window varies slightly according to your climate and what I state is for cold areas similar to ours in warm climates it could be a month later.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2021, 02:05:22 PM by Ian Y »
Ian Young, Aberdeen North East Scotland   - 
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2021, 03:34:23 PM »
Thanks Ian! I agree with you that it's key to find out for yourself. I like to take the advice and experience of others, turn it over in my mind to work out how it applies to my situation, and hopefully gain from it. Sometimes - as here - it works, other times it doesn't.

The fridge is also giving some promising results for gentians which I will post about if/when I get a bit more germination. I've also noticed (anecdotally) slightly better results in the fridge from seed sown at the wrong time, probably because moisture levels in the pots are better controlled and slugs are excluded.


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2021, 04:02:16 PM »
Some additional notes on sowings and germination. I'm afraid I haven't recorded number of seeds sown or exact date, but hopefully this will be of some use / interest. Many of these were resown in Seramis in January 2021 when I discovered Paul Cumbleton's article recommending this as a growing medium for Frits. For seeds not showing any top growth this seemed fine (but see notes below).

I had some damping off problems in February. My conservatory is not well ventilated and this can cause problems for seedlings that haven't had enough light either. With some relatively dry sunny weather I have put the seedlings outdoors, bringing them in at night.

SRGC Seed Exchange 2019-20. Sown January 2020. Assume most packets are small (10 or fewer seeds)
Fritillaria pallidiflora. 2 germinated in spring 2020 and an additional 4 this spring.
F. moggridgei. 0 germinated in 2020. 3 germinated this spring, possibility of more as they are still emerging.
F. lusitanica. 2 pots. Pot 1: 0 germinated in 2020. 1 germinated this spring. Pot 2. 0 germinated in 2020. 5 germinated this spring.
F. biflora roderickii. Good germination (>15, did not keep records) in spring 2020.
F. camschatcensis. 0 germinated in 2020. 5 germinated this spring.
F. graeca. No germination so far.

Oron Peri (Seeds of Peace). Sown August 2020. Packets were 12-15 seeds.
F. argolica. 10 germinated in the fridge in November 2020, but 4 lost to damping off in January.
F. obliqua subsp. tuntasica. 6 germinated in the fridge in November 2020. Some evidence of fungal attack but no losses.
F. conica. 7 germinated in fridge in November 2020. 3 lost to fungal attack.

When I read Paul Cumbleton's advice to grow Frits in pure Seramis, I tried to transplant these three pots into clay pots with Seramis. I now think this was a mistake as the seedlings were fragile and may have contributed to the fungal attack. My conservatory is not well ventilated which doesn't help. All three pots with the survivors are now outdoors in good light and are looking stronger.

Rannveig Wallis (Buried Treasure). Sown early September 2020. Packets were around 20 seeds.
F. involucrata. 19 germinated rather slowly between January and early March. No losses so far.

Michal Rejsek (wildflowerseeds.eu). Sown early September 2020. Packets were around 30 seeds.
F. gussichiae. Very good germination from mid January, 34 seedlings. No losses.
F. pyrenaica. (2 packets) Very good germination starting in late January (8 seedlings), now >50 in the pot. No losses.
F. messanensis. Very good germination from mid January onwards, eventually around 35 seedlings. A few losses to damping off, the pot is now outdoors.
F. montana. Good germination, just over 20 seedlings, starting 6 Feb, still some stragglers emerging. The pot was disturbed (possibly the cat or dog?) resulting in a few losses.

Own seed. Sown September 2020. Large quantity that was originally intended to go to a seed exchange.
F. pyrenaica. Excellent germination from 6 Feb, germinating a bit later than the Rejsek seed. Now have 3 large pots each with 60+ seedlings. No losses.

Fritillaria group (main distribution). Sown late September 2020. Packets were around 10-20 seeds.
F. acmopetala. Good germination, 17 seedlings. When I repotted these in January I found well developed roots although there was no leaf growth. The leaves all emerged at about the same time at the start of February. No losses.
F. carica. Germination very slow, there were signs of activity before Christmas but some seeds did not emerge until mid February. 7 seedlings so far, no losses.
F. crassifolia. (2 different packets) Good germination (8-10 per pot) starting early January but several losses to damping off.
F. graeca. 8 seedlings germinating rather slowly, some are still appearing. No losses.
F. grandiflora. 8 seedlings germinated rather slowly from early Feb, 2 lost to damping off.
F. kurdica. Only 1 has germinated so far.
F. lusitanica. 8 germinated in Feb, but heavy losses to damping off. 3 strong seedlings remaining.
F. olivieri. 14 germinated, appearing rather quickly above ground in early Feb.
F. pallidiflora. Good germination, 13 seedlings most of which did not emerge until early March. No losses.
F. pinardii. Three have germinated, of which one seemed to struggle to root and shrivelled up.
F. pontica substipetala. No germination so far.
F. pyrenaica. Two pots, both with rather staggered germination between mid Jan and early March. One with 12 seedings and one with 19. No losses.
F. ruthenica. Good germination with 17 germinating. The seedlings of this came up very early - before Christmas - and arch more than other fritillary seedlings. They seem pretty resistant to damping off.
F. thessala (2 pots). One pot showed quite poor germination with 3 seedlings, one of which shrivelled up. The other seedlings look strong however. The other pot has 10 seedlings. All seedlings had emerged by 20 Feb.
F. wendelboi. Very good germination (around 20) in late Feb but 3 lost to damping off. Now doing well outside.
F. zagrica. Very good germination (around 15) early in the season (mid Jan). The seedlings have quite a spindly appearance but are bulking up quite well in good light. No losses.

Fritillaria group (supplementary distribution). Sown mid Oct.
F. aurea. 13 seedlings germinated rather slowly between late Jan and early March. No losses.
F. aurea var. cilicico-taurica. Markedly later than F. aurea, first emergence on 1 March, now 6 seedlings showing.
F. latifolia. (2 pots). Both are slow and have only really started to show growth in the last week or so. One pot has a single seedling so far, the other has 5 so far.
F. latifolia var. nobilis (2 pots). One pot started germinating on 6 Jan and has now produced 13 seedlings. The other has only started to emerge in the last week with 6 seedlings so far.

B&T World seeds. Did not arrive until December even though ordered in summer. Sown 6 December, some held back in case of poor germination.
F. collina. None visible, but some seeds have germinated.
F. tubiformis. None visible, but some seeds have germinated.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2021, 04:39:34 PM by Tristan_He »


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2021, 04:05:35 PM »
I hope the above is of some use. Sorry for the long post.


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2021, 10:38:18 PM »
A few snaps of Fritillaria seedlings:

F. gussichiae sown Sep 2020.

F. latifolia var. nobilis sown Oct 2020


F. camschatcensis
SRGC sown Jan 2020. Pretty good germination here but as you can see they do still need a cold period to germinate even though they are closer to the N American group.

F. pallidiflora SRGC sown Jan 2020. This pot has done ok even though it was sown outside the window, and as you can see three seedlings even germinated in spring 2020. However, I think germination rate is lower compared to...

F. pallidiflora Frit Group sown Sep 2020. Near 100% germination in this pot.


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2021, 10:40:20 PM »
I didn't kill all of my seedlings using the old method. These are F. pyrenaica pale form. I'm hopeful some of these may flower next year.



  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1223
  • Country: wales
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2021, 11:51:53 PM »

The leaves have died back now, and I couldn't resist tipping out the pots to see how the crop is doing. These are F. pyrenaica and I think they have made good growth. This year I have been feeding regularly with weak potash rich feed following Ian's advice, which has helped develop the bulbs. Some are nice and fat, like a full-grown tick.

This photo shows the disadvantage of perlite as a growing medium - although bulbs grow very well in it, they are the same colour and hard to spot.


  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 465
  • Country: us
Re: My mistakes sowing Frits... and how I fixed them
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2022, 08:51:53 PM »
In my experience most frits will germinate readily in a baggie with seed starter mix in a refrigerator at 40F in 1-5 weeks.
Marc Rosenblum

Falls City, OR USA

I am in USDA zone 8b where temperatures almost never fall below 15F -9.4C.  Rainfall 50" 110 cm + but none  June-September.  We seldom get snow; but when it comes we get 30" overnight. Soil is sandy loam with a lot of humus. 
Oregon- where Dallas is NNW of Phoenix


Scottish Rock Garden Club is a Charity registered with Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR): SC000942
SimplePortal 2.3.5 © 2008-2012, SimplePortal