Fritillaria imperialis: the imperial crown and its legends


From its very ancient origin, Fritillaria imperialis (Genus Liliaceae) was one of the first man-grown plants. Its history begins in Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where it still grows spontaneously today.

Around the 16th century it spread to Europe: the first bulbs were planted in Leida. In 1600 Fritillaria imperialis became known to be depicted in many oil paintings.

Also called “imperial crown”, Fritillaria is a perennial bulbous plant whose stem can reach 100-120 cm in height. The ribbon or arched leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and can reach a third of the length of the plant. During the summer there are pretty flowers, yellow or red, with a bell shaped like a crown that resembles those of the ancient emperors. During the winter, the stem, leaves and flowers degrade and the plant enters the so-called “vegetative rest” needed to acquire minerals in the bulb for the new year.


It is not difficult to cultivate the imperial crown, but there are important steps to follow:

Soil: Bulbs must be placed in the autumn season at a depth of 10-15 cm well spaced, so that they can grow in the garden space. It is best to leave them undisturbed, as flowering can take place even after two years. In particular, the soil must be rich in nutrients: prefer that made of sand and peat mixed with mature manure.

Exposure: To make the Fritillaria imperialis vigorous it is necessary to settle in shaded places, where it absorbs the sun’s rays in the morning. It tolerates very hard stiff temperatures but may show some suffering for the summer ones, so it is good to choose the positioning accurately.

Irrigation: In general, they must be carried out between the months of February and the beginning of the autumn season; However, it is important that the water should dry out between one watering and the other to prevent moisture from forming. When the leaves begin to yellow, it is possible to reduce the frequency of irrigation.


During the summer season, the impeller’s crown goes to flowering producing pods with seeds inside. These can be picked up and used for multiplication of the plant. If sown in the spring, they can be directly planted; If, however, sowed in winter, the seeds should be placed in a pot until germination.

Alternatively, bulbs can be removed from the bulbs but this could compromise their bloom.

Pests and illnesses

Fritillaria imperialis is generally not subject to illness or parasite. However, it is extremely sensitive to moisture that can lead to the growth of fungal infections: if they are not treated promptly they can result in the death of the bulb itself.

Curiosity e properties

The imperial crown emanates an intense musky scent that comes from a sulfur substance that can be used as a natural remedy to remove moles, wounds and mice. In addition, the plant produces a nectar that attracts bees for honey production.

Fritillaria imperialis is a well-known variety so far that it has entered some legends, including the admonition of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, the flowers of the imperial crown were white and they used to bloom on Mount Olive, where Jesus was imprisoned. It is said that all the flowers in the garden bent their corolla in the form of compassion. Only the Fritillaria imperialis stood erect but when Jesus warned her, she bent the flower crown from which tears came.

The second legend tells of a queen of the Persian Empire who was so beautiful that it was admired by every man. But the king decided to repudiate her by accusing her of infidelity. The innocent queen felt betrayed and began to wander desperately in the fields near the castle. After long walking, her feet became roots that cemented in the ground, her body a stem and her head a beautiful crown of flowers.

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