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Montbretia – corms of beauty and trouble

Montbretia (Crocosmia)

The Montbretia (Crocosmia) are non-native shards of leaves, perfect as a background in a herbaceous border. Flowering is from either mid or late summer. Originally from southern and eastern Africa, they survive well in the UK. Crocosmia x crocosmiliflora is considered an invasive species covering road verges and hedge banks in western areas of the UK and Ireland. Very popular as a garden plant, there are indeed many varieties with colours ranging from yellow, orange to deep reds.

Crocusmia x crocusmiliflora (Montbretia) (By Anthony Appleyard), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18047347)

Crocusmia x crocusmiliflora (Montbretia) (By Anthony Appleyard), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18047347)

Care of Montbretia

Montbretia are easy to grow, as once established they simply store their energy for the next year in their “corms”. Corms are actually inflated stems without the layers that characterise bulbs. Each winter they die back, and then in the spring will reappear.Some varieties do not tolerate very cold frosts, so will need to be lifted each year to be stored in a cold frame or equivalent. Although the flower stems can be cut back, leave the leaves over winter, and mulch the crown of the plant with bark chips for added protection from frosts. Montbretia love the the sun, so best grown in areas that get plenty of sunshine, or even near to a sunny wall which helps keep the temperature higher. Ensure that the soil is well drained too so applying garden compost to the area in spring will help.

Division and propagation

If they need dividing up, then this is best done in spring. When you dig up a clump in spring you will see a mass of conjoined corms. Remove the topmost corms and plant these around 10 cms deep, in wavy rows within the herbaceous border, enriched with garden compost. Planted next to Achilleas and other herbaceous plants, including grasses.

The Montbretia is now back in fashion, and although wonderful in the garden, do be careful when disposing of those excess corms – best to take them to local authority green waste recycling centres.