Crocosmia – A Gem for the Garden

Posted: June 19, 2013

A beautiful perennial that was recently introduced to my garden is Crocosmia. It is under-utilized, despite its supreme beauty and ease of care.


The Crocosmia is a perennial genus in the Iris family Iridaceae and is native to the grasslands of the Cape Floristic Region in South Africa. Crocosmia is sometimes known as Coppertip or Falling Star and is botanically known as Tritonia and Monbretia. It is named after French botanist Antoine Francois Ernest Conquebert de Monbret, who accompanied Napoleon on his 1798 campaign into Egypt.

Crocosmia is not new to gardening, having been hybridized in France since the 1870’s. It attracted the attention of English hybridizers by the mid 1890’s. Crocosmias are referred to as bulbs, but they are actually grown from basal underground corms. Corms are similar in appearance to bulbs externally and thus erroneously called bulbs. They have stems that are internally structured with solid tissues. This distinguishes them from bulbs, which are mostly made up of layered fleshy scales that are modified leaves

When planting a Crocosmia, space the corms four to five inches deep, and four inches apart in rich, loose garden soil. If the soil is heavy or doesn’t drain well, mix in a generous amount of sand. The plants prefer full sun but will do fine in light shade. They are a drought-tolerant plant that demands almost no attention once planted.  If you want to control the spreading of these plants, you will need to cut off the faded flowers to prevent them from reseeding.

Crocosmia is related to the gladiola, having the same saber-shaped leaves. The leaves are dark green, broad, and sword-shaped. The leaves are attractive on their own when the plant is not in bloom. The basal, alternate leaves are cauline (belonging to the stem) and are distichous (growing in two vertical ranks.)  Crocosmia make a good accent in a flower bed and is attractive in a container on patios or decks. The flowers make a good fresh-cut bloom for bringing indoors to enjoy. It is deer resistant and performs well under a variety of conditions. They are hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9.

These beautiful and vibrant plants have vivid sub-opposite flowers on divaricately, (diverging at a wide angle) branched stems. Crocosmias grow two to four feet tall in a season. The exotic flowers bloom from July until October. The fertile flowers are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds, or by the wind. There are several varieties available with vivid colors. The Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is the most popular for it possesses the deepest reds and is very appealing to hummingbirds to enjoy because of its rich red robust flowers. The bright scarlet tubes are filled with sweet nectar for the happy hummingbirds. What is appreciated by a hummingbird is gladly welcomed in our flower garden. Also, birds enjoy eating the seeds after the flowers are spent.

When the plants have died back in the fall, they can be cut to the ground and removed. Every three or four years, dig up and divide Crocosmia corms in the fall to keep them blooming at their vigorous best. Replant the corms, giving them more space to grow big and bright blooms next year or consider sharing some of the corms with friends. A happy and content gardener is one who shares flourishing plantings, successful techniques, and knowledge with others.

Carolyn Black is a Penn State Master Gardener from Adams County. Penn State Extension of Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, phone 334-6271