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The Devil's Flower

by CountryLife Gardening | Jul 27, 2015
Crocosmia can be found on nearly every second country road...

If you have traveled around Ireland at all you will be accustomed to the sight of orange flowers atop long slender stalks. Crocosmia can be found on nearly every second country road, especially around the south of Ireland. It is a garden escapee which has naturalised along our roadside verges and is adding an immense burst of orange colour everywhere it is found. 

Crocosmia is a small genus of flowering plants in the iris family, Iridaceae. It is native to the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa, ranging from South Africa to Sudan. But as anyone who has grown crocosmia before the plant does just as well in our Irish climate as it does in it’s homeland.

As a very young horticulturalist pottering around my mother’s garden I got slightly confused by the plant when I learnt it was part of the iris family. Hearing this I assumed it must be planted like irises and so I planted it up on the margins of our pond with roots sitting just in the water. While I was somewhat mistaken doing this, the plants did continue to grow and produce very thick luscious leaves.

More commonly crocosmia will be planted in flowerbeds which are south facing as they prefer a lot of direct sunlight. They will grow well in most soil types but prefer a rich free draining soil. If it is very heavy you may need to work in some grit to improve the structure and drainage.

Lucifer has fantastic flaming red flowers which really pop in a gardenAt the moment we have a number of different varieties of crocosmia in CountryLife. One of the most common varieties and one which always proves popular with gardeners is C. Lucifer. Lucifer is one of the tallest growing varieties and can add great height to a flowerbed if needed. Lucifer has fantastic flaming red flowers which really pop in a garden.

If you are after slightly larger flowers Emily Mckenzie is the crocosmia you are looking for. This variety has lovely big flowers and an amazing pattern to it’s petals. The petals are a burnt orange colour with a mahogany band or ring right in the centre of the flower.

If you are a fan of the variety that you see growing wild along country roads crocosmia Babylon is for you. This variety is just slightly larger than the wild variety. This one has brilliant large flowers but does not grow as tall as Lucifer so may be a better alternative for some gardeners. Crocosmia Carmine Brilliant is another alternative to the wild variety which has more of a yellowish orange flower which is just slightly more subtle than the wild variety.

Crocosmia Ember is a great variety to plant alongside Lucifer. I discovered this pairing by accident when I mixed up containers and planted them together. C. Ember is very similar to Lucifer but flowers about a month or so later than Lucifer so when planted together you have a seamless transition from one variety to the other and prolong the flowering season for yourself.

Crocosmia George Davison has brilliant yellow flowers which are tinged with a slight hint of orangeCrocosmia George Davison is a fantastic variety for anyone who is not a fan of the strong oranges of the other crocosmia. This has brilliant yellow flowers which are tinged with a slight hint of orange.

Crocosmia really require no work once they have established. During very warm dry weather they will need to be watered and will benefit from an occasional liquid feed. To keep the plant vigorous you could dig up the clumps and divide them to avoid the plants becoming congested. 

Written by Malachy

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Malachy's Bio 

I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!