Delphinium

2 Mar

Delphinium, 2-4 ft., deciduous, many colors, large spikes of flowers in spring or early summer, full sun, regular water, stake.

Most people associate delphiniums with blue flowers, but colors also include white and shades of red, pink, lavender, and purple. Leaves are lobed or fanlike, variously cut and divided. Taller hybrids offer rich colors in elegant spires. All kinds are effective in borders and make good cut flowers; lower-growing kinds serve well as container plants.

Blossoms attract birds.

Delphinium elatum
Delphinium elatum

This Siberian native grows 3–6 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, with spikes of flowers in dark or dull purple. This species is among the parents of modern delphinium strains, whose flower colors run from shades of blue to lilac pink, deep raspberry rose, clear lilac, lavender, royal purple, and darkest violet.

Pacific strain (also called Pacific Giants, Pacific Coast hybrids, and Pacific hybrids) grows 5–8 ft. tall. These are available as seed-raised, mixed-color plants and in named series that produce specific colors, including light blue –Summer Skies–; medium blue –Blue Bird–; medium to dark blue –Blue Jay–; –Galahad–, clear white with white center; –Percival–, white with black center. Additional purple, lavender, and pink selections are sold. Blue Fountains, Blue Springs, and Magic Fountains strains are like Pacific strain but shorter (2–2 1/2 ft. tall). Stand Up strain is even shorter (15–20 in. high). These lower-growing types seldom require staking.

Centurion is a long-stalked (4–5-ft.-tall), large-flowered hybrid strain similar to the Pacific strain. It too will bloom the first year from seed, but it’s more reliably perennial.

English Delphinium Mix grows 6–8 ft. tall, produces double flowers of blue, purple, mauve, pink, and white. The spikes are much denser looking than those of Pacific strain. English types may be sold under other names such as –English Seedlings–.

Delphiniums need rich, porous soil and regular fertilizing. Improve poor or heavy soils by blending in soil conditioners. Add lime to strongly acid soils. Work small amount of superphosphate into soil around the root ball. Be careful not to cover root crown with soil. Protect from snails, slugs.

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