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)
View this plant in a garden

Category:

Bulbs

Height:

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

Spacing:

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

Hardiness:

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

Danger:

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Pink

Purple

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Mid Spring

Foliage:

Herbaceous

Smooth-Textured

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:

Non-patented

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

Regional

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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

14
positives
3
neutrals
0
negatives
RatingContent
Positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 a... read more

Positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love the checkered print on the petals!

Neutral

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 wil... read more

Neutral

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.