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PlantFiles: Checkered Lily, Guinea-Hen Flower, Snake's Head Fritillary
Fritillaria meleagris

Family: Liliaceae (lil-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Fritillaria (frit-il-AR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: meleagris (mel-EE-uh-gris) (Info)

8 vendors have this plant for sale.

44 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
By scoring the base of the bulb to promote new bulblets
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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14 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Feb 1, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I've been pleasantly surprised to find these naturalizing in a sandy bed with morning sun and little care. I'd have thought it would be too dry for them.

The checkered maroon ones are beautiful on close inspection, but only the white ones read well at a distance in the garden.

Revised: Unfortunately, fritillaria are vulnerable to the invasive lily leaf beetle that's decimating lilies throughout New England and New York.

Positive AmyInNH On Aug 14, 2013, AmyInNH from Brookline, NH wrote:

What an elegant little beauty growing in my ultra-sandy yard (you can hear water perk through when it rains). Morning sun in the spring, minimal sun through the summer. And there they are every year, with no tending by me. I don't know if they're still coming up as spiderwort's taken over the area.

Positive wakingdream On Jun 7, 2013, wakingdream from Allentown, PA wrote:

These mail order bulbs arrived early for fall planting in comparison to most other types due to their tendency to dry out too quickly and die before planting. I have had them 4 years now.
I chose a mix of light and dark Fritillaria but it turns out only one was light and all the rest were dark. Still, the show is a good one. They live near my hose and faucet because they favor regular moisture. It is a half sun location, morning sun only and not even strong sun except in early spring before the trees leaf out. Sometimes a seedpod develops. Many visitors comment on the beauty and uniqueness of the Fritillaria meleagris, Checkered Lily. They coexist happily with Lungwort, Lunaria, Astilbe and some Water Mint.

Positive Blackwill On Mar 9, 2010, Blackwill from Bakersfield, CA wrote:

My Checkered Lilies just popped up here in Bakersfield, CA about a week ago (First few days of March, 2010). I planted them last Fall, and was getting a bit nervous when I didn't see any sign of them until a week ago!

But, there they are!! I planted 10 bulbs, and I can see 7 have popped up. 2 have already flowered!

They are really, really low-growing, though. Most of the buds are actually resting right on the soil! I'm assuming (incorrectly???) that this is normal for the first year. I expect them to be larger next Spring.

Anyway, what an interesting flower form! I agree that the coloration does appear to be computer-generated :) Perhaps these should also be called Pixel Lilies??

Positive mcash70 On Feb 2, 2010, mcash70 from Logan Lake, BC (Zone 3a) wrote:

I love Checkered Lilies, they are pretty graceful looking flowers. I planted 10 bulbs 8 years ago and was very disappointed when only
a few came up. I never got around to planting some more but the ones that grew are spreading and I'm happy to see them bloom each year!

Positive pajaritomt On Apr 9, 2009, pajaritomt from Los Alamos, NM (Zone 5a) wrote:

I love this bulb but have not had good luck getting to last. The first batch of 5 or so gave only one plant and one flower before vanishing. I am on my second batch of 10 and have several plants that have survived. The next question is will the survive another year. I put them in soil very much enriched with compost, etc. The ones in the sunniest spot came out earliest, but some are up in partial shade as well. I am determined to learn to grow these beauties reliably.

Positive hillfarm On Apr 30, 2007, hillfarm from Quesnel, BC (Zone 4a) wrote:

Here in Interior British Columbia (dry zone) these are much more reliable than the larger Crown Imperials, which tend to fade out after a few years. The Snakeshead Frits just keep showing up year after year. Spread in a modest way; wish they'd spread way more - I love these guys.

Positive nevadagdn On Mar 29, 2005, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

I've had only limited success with this plant--it seems to be surviving, if not thriving and multiplying, in a fairly moist area of one of my borders at the edge of the lawn.

Positive MN_Darren On Aug 10, 2004, MN_Darren from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

This is one of my favorite spring bulbs, but it might be an acquired taste.
Here in Minnesota it is difficult to keep fritillaria with larger bulbs (e.g. f. persica, f. imperealis). They always seem to do well the first spring, then the next year they only produce foliage, and continue to fade each year. However, the smaller bulbed f. meleagris and f. assyriaca are ideal for our area. I have found that only about half of the bulbs planted actually appear, but once they show up, they continue to grow and spread easily. If you want a mixture of purple and white, I recommend ordering extra white ones because the mixtures seem to lean heavily to the purple.
My favorite feature of this flower is the serpent-like way they come out of the ground until blooming. They twist and turn, lie on the ground, stand up, and all of this activity is underscored by the rather reptillian appearance of the buds and flowers.
They have a rather cool, somber, even "gothic" appearance that contrasts nicely with gaudy daffodils and other brightly colored spring bulbs.

The other great feature is that they are fairly tall and very thin so the leaves and stems don't take up lots of precious garden space as do tulips. I have a really healthy bed growing amongst jetfire daffodils, columbines and anemone pulsatilla.

Positive CatskillKarma On Jul 11, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

I love the checkered flowers of these. They bloom quite early in spring, and I have had not problem with rodents on them. Ours a quite tall--sometimes a foot high, but their coloring makes them hard to spot until you look closely.
Our soil is very heavy clay, wet to saturation. They are growing near a blue spruce, where the needles keep the soil mildly acid. I have heard that they are supposed to smell bad, but mine smell just fine and I frequently pick a bunch and put them on our dining table. They are one of the few bulbs that does well in our soggy springs--along with winter aconite and narcissus actaea. The checkers look like pixels and my husband calls them "those computer-generated flowers"

Positive hanna1 On Jul 10, 2004, hanna1 from Castro Valley, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Oh what beauty!!!! I had it growing in my S. Ca. garden, full sun, it came up every year for 15 years, I had just started my garden, and planted low growing Junipers next to it, it still came up thru the foliage every year.

Positive Howard_C On May 31, 2004, Howard_C from St John's, NL wrote:

In our somewhat cool, damp climate in Newfoundland (Canadian zone 5b) these do well, self seeding readily. When bulbs arrive in the nurseries here in September or October the soil is already cooling down and I've found that I get more success if I keep them in moist peat in a warmer spot (10 - 15 C) until they show signs of life - shoots or roots. Then I can plant them out, once their dormancy is broken they are OK. (This works with several other kinds of "bulbs" too like anemones or oxalis adenophylla.)

Positive Karenn On Sep 16, 2003, Karenn from Mount Prospect, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

In regards to the "critters" getting at your bulbs, I have found if you place a few allium bulbs (any size, variety etc. will do) along with whatever you want left alone, this works better than anything! The next best is ground oyster shell, placed within the planting hole and also on top of the soil after covering the bulbs. I have not had any problems with fritillary, tulips, anything voles or squirrels are drawn to. And fritillary are indeed charming!

Neutral SueP64 On Sep 15, 2003, SueP64 from Centerbrook, CT wrote:

These fast became a favorite of the squirrels and chipmunks. I planted 100 fritillaria bulbs last year. 2 survived the keen olfactory senses of natures little critters. I advise cautionary measures (covering with hardware cloth is one) be taken if you have a lot of inquisitive rodents around.

Positive dejavu On Jul 2, 2003, dejavu from Rochester, NY wrote:

I love the checkered print on the petals!

Neutral Baa On May 22, 2002, Baa wrote:

Perennial, upright bulb from Europe and Russia.

Has slim, light-grey green leaves. Bears bell to almost box shaped, maroon to purple, checkered (like tiny mosaic) flowers.

Flowers March - May

Needs moist but well drained or damp, fertile soil in full sun or partial shade. Is native in Southern England in water meadows and is an idea subject for naturalising in damp grassland (oh for the space!).

The bulbs of all fritillaries are very delicate and easily damaged so handle as little as possible and with great care.

The plants are best bought and planted 'in the green' (has some leaves on it). Bulbs are quite small, white and very prone to over drying. Bulbs bought cheaply may also need a year to settle before they will flower.

Divide large clumps carefully after flowering. The bulbs will produce tiny, grain sized bulbils which may also be propagated.

Sow the seed direct or in a pot and leave outside in a sheltered area, they need a period of cold to germinate.

Sometimes will produce the pure white, forma 'Alba'

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 31, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Easily grown in average, medium wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist organic soil in light shade. Plant bulbs 3" deep in fall.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Logan Lake,
Fox, Alaska
Juneau, Alaska
Bakersfield, California
Chino Hills, California
Merced, California
Middletown, California
San Mateo, California
Denver, Colorado
Littleton, Colorado
Chicago, Illinois
Mackinaw, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Palmyra, Illinois
Plainfield, Illinois
Streamwood, Illinois
Winnetka, Illinois
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Barbourville, Kentucky
Skowhegan, Maine
Dracut, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Winchester, Massachusetts
Saginaw, Michigan
Chaska, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sparks, Nevada
Brookline, New Hampshire
Salem, New Hampshire
Winchester, New Hampshire
Neptune, New Jersey
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Clifton Park, New York
Jefferson, New York
Millbrook, New York
West Kill, New York
Burlington, North Carolina
Chesterland, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Coshocton, Ohio
Grove City, Ohio
Grants Pass, Oregon
Portland, Oregon (2 reports)
West Linn, Oregon
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Norristown, Pennsylvania
North Augusta, South Carolina
Nashville, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Chimacum, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Vancouver, Washington

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