Should I give up on delphiniums in zone 5a?

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Looking at my late winter garden I wonder if I wasn't too optimistic. I knew that delphiniums were a bit picky, but I had to have them and bought a plant on a whim. Now, as things are thawing, it's looking dead--really dead. I don't exactly know what cultivar my delphiniums are (were?) since I forgot to tag them. They're very true blue in color. They look quite a bit like "Butterfly Blue," but mine grew tall enough to need some staking. At their prime they were very pretty!

I love the look of a cottage garden and would love to grow some tall delphiniums at the back of my border. Am I just asking for heartache? Should I just treat them as an annual? Or should I wait and see if my really dead-looking delphinium comes back? Any delphinium-growing tips?

This message was edited Mar 12, 2008 6:31 PM

South Milwaukee, WI

No ! Don't give up ! They will probably come back. Everything looks dead now. I think they are pretty hardy- I had mine a couple of years. I have the Butterfly blue. They like rich soil- I toss them a few handfuls of compost, or compost with mature. They like water- but not too much- (not to sit in water)-it has to drain.

Menasha, WI(Zone 5a)

I don't recall my delph's being up until peonies come up.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Maybe I'm just being paranoid. I don't expect green, but what I see now looks so shriveled up and pitiful I can't imagine it'll show signs of life as the weather warms. I'm hoping it'll surprise me! I've just heard from several gardeners that delphiniums can be notoriously difficult to grow. I killed my monarda last year, so maybe I'm just being fatalistic and predicting another casualty. hehe

Soapwart, bigcityal...which cultivars have you had good luck with?

Waterman, IL(Zone 5a)

It's too early to doom your delphiniums. Everything looks dead except my Coral Bells and Dianthus. They're sort of evergreen anyway. The only signs of life I see are my Columbine in the unheated greenhouse.

Madison, WI

The spring is in the air but not on the ground for me either. The ground is still frozen here, so it is way too early to doom perennials. Actually most of them do look dead as they die to the ground.

Sioux Falls, SD

5 inches of snow here in Sioux Falls SD, this morning and still accumulating. My only signs of spring are the Hyacinths and Daffodils, I forced inside. ( At least I have a wonderful smell of Hyacinths!) Spring seems far away, as they are predicting temps in 30's this week and snow again at end of week. I guess I will have to live vicariously through the posts of those who are elsewhere.
Happy St. Patricks Day, ( it will prove interesting for the parade here this year!)

Plymouth, WI(Zone 8b)

I was surprised my heucheras were all looking alive. We still have tons of snow piled up yet. I am seeing the first peeks at the house edges of ground/mulch and plants. I tried delphiniums a few times but unfortunately I was only able to get the blue one to come back one year. The white one I grew was done after one. I remember reading somewhere that certain delphiniums only have a 2 season life? Maybe I am mistaken, but that has always stuck in my head. I gave up. I was heartbroken when they didn't come back after a few repeated tries. And for some reason, hollyhocks give me the same trouble, but I got one to come back last year and was thrilled!

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

suefalls - Ack! Sorry to hear about the snow. We're expecting more of a rainy/sleety mess here. It sure has been a long winter for the Upper Midwest.

Garden4ever - I know that hollyhocks are biennial but can reseed under the right conditions. I think some species of delphiniums are also biennial. If they don't reseed, or you weed out the seedlings...after a while there will be no plants.

I don't have heucheras here, but I noticed that my cranesbill is already starting to perk up. I've also got daffodils and crocuses nosing their way up through the soil. It's so exciting to see the first signs of life!

As for my delphinium, I think I'll probably just wait and see what happens with it. If it fails, I'm not sure I'll grow them again except maybe as an annual when I find inexpensive plants. Next year I might try growing both hollyhocks and delphs from seed. That way, if they don't do well the only real investment was some time and about 89 cents for the seed packet. ;)

Plymouth, WI(Zone 8b)

Lol, I like your thinking Kayly.... now if I could only get my seeds to grow..... but that is a whole other subject!

Tomah, WI

I am seeing the start of my peonies, bleeding hearts, daylilies, poppies & of course my tulips & daffodils(already have buds). I am hoping for a nice spring, since last year we had a very hard frost that damaged all my new growth. The bleeding heart shoots looked like black slime.

Olathe, KS(Zone 5a)

I live in this zone too and wanted true blue delphiniums. I'd buy the pretty blue ones in bloom at a nursery, never got a repeat over summer, and they died before winter. Then I was told that (1) they love compost and (2) the New Milleniums were much hardier. I also added a sprinkler system to get water on everything well instead of cooking them dry in the summer. My soil is not good yet but is much better than it was.

So, I added some compost for the last 2 years and bought six types, including 2 New Milleniums (a blue mix - Royal Aspirations and a rose mauve - Sweetheart), last year from Graceful Gardens on the internet. My peonies are up showing red stalks and so are 2 each of the New Milleniums (the blue mix and the rose mauve). I bought several sets each last year and planted in groups of 4. In only 2 places I have 2 each showing their fancy frilled leaves. The blue mix had only one true blue gorgeous one and lots of not so true blue ones. One of the repeats stalks is the true blue one I marked with thin bamboo wood stakes - I think and hope. Joy, joy, joy.

I have more compost in the car and will get the bags out and on the ground this week. I also have more delphiniums coming in the mail at the end of this month. And, I will get the sprinkler system set up too. I thought I bought a true blue one finally and not a mix, but oh well, whatever I can get. I heard some people around here can get them to come back with a lot of compost in their garden. Carol

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

Don't give up! I have yearned for delps in my yard for years, tried and failed several times. Last year I tried growing some from seed under lights in my basement. I babies the seedlings, not all made it but the few that did were my pride and joy. I amended the planting whole with compost and slow released fertilizer, and mulched well to keep in the moisture. Here is a pic of my Black Knight from last year.
I cleaned out this bed just yesterday and I think I might have one left out of the 3. Can't tell for sure until the leaf comes out in full.
I have started more seed this year.

Thumbnail by ladygardener1
Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Just an update--my delphs are back! And it would appear they brought friends, too. They're a couple inches tall now and going strong. Yay! :D

I feel like I got very lucky with these. Everyone I know around here has trouble growing delphiniums. Maybe it was the heavy dose of compost I added when I created the bed I put them in. Either way, I'm a happy happy gardener.

Milwaukee, WI

Mine are just starting to peek through also

I second the motion to mulch the delphiniums. In 2007, the April deep freeze toasted many of my reliable perennials motivating me to mulch mulch mulch for the winter. Last weekend I saw the return of the delphiniums.....first time ever for me. Annually, I've replaced the delphiniums because of their beautiful display in my perennial bed (okay...they are sold as perennials).

Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

The only ones I have ever had luck with were the summer nights and butterfly blue ones, they are smaller and have the ferny looking leaves. But I have killed several and many have just died or rotted out on me. I never have had luck with the ones with the giant ones that have the larger leaves. Delphiniums and Lupines I think are both trial and error, and just difficult to grow in a colder area. It amazed me when I was visiting Washington state and saw all the lupines, penstemon, shasta daisies and foxglove just growing wildly. Those are all plants that I dont grow well in Iowa.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

PlantGirl - Isn't it a challenge sometimes to make peace with whatever will grow in your area? (But hey, as delphiniums go, the 'Blue Butterfly' is nice!) I'm always envious of the people growing things that just don't like either this zone or our clay soil. It doesn't stop me from trying, though.

I'd been warned that delphs were very challenging to grow around here. I rarely see them in gardens in my area, either, which is another clue. But I must be doing something right, because my belladonna delphinium in my part sun garden is growing by leaps and bounds and the 'Magic Fountain' in my sun garden is covered in buds. I'm just thrilled that they came back, especially since they looked so dead earlier in the season.

I love lupines, but I've yet to give them a try. As soon as I get more space I think I'll give them a shot and see what happens.

South Milwaukee, WI

I just noticed my delphiniums yesterday. They are about 3 or 4 inches high. They really sprung up, all at once.
I'm so glad that yours came back too!

Albany, ME(Zone 4b)

Hi, Delph lovers,

I've been trying to drumb up support for a delphinium forum. If you are interested please post a reply in Dave's Garden and see below.[[email protected]]

Today Terry (Admin) posted this in Dave's Garden, so in addition to posting your reply there, please post any delphinium questions that have been floating around in the back of your minds.


I've corresponded with LAS14 ;o) Here are my observations and suggestions.

I looked at the number of Delphinium threads: [[email protected]] and the vast majority (80-90%) are PlantFiles photo threads. That's good - it means we have quite a few images of delphiniums in PlantFiles. Hopefully, more interest in this topic will lead to more images.

But the number of threads doesn't indicate there's a strong base of support for a forum, or a sustained interest level in this specific topic.

The best way to demonstrate a strong, sustained interest level is for a topic to begin to dominate a forum with active threads discussing various aspects of growing this plant. If that happens and it becomes evident that it needs its own forum, we'll be happy to make one at that time.

The Perennials forum would probably be a good place to start; we also have a Rocky Mountain Gardening forum, a Rock and Alpine forum, a Xeriscape forum (all are subscribers-only); you can use the Beginner Flower forum if you want to include non-subscribers in the conversation(s).

This message was edited Aug 20, 2008 9:20 AM

Bensenville, IL(Zone 5a)

ladygardener1 - I was at Home Depot the other evening and saw this beautiful purple-blue delph. that just stood out from a distance. What an eyecatcher! Turned out to be Black Knight. My neighbor absolutely loves them so I called her to see if she wanted it. She too has had her share of growing problems with them and mostly they die. This one was on sale for $9 .99 so she went for it. I'll tell her to be sure it has good drainage and mulch, mulch, mulch it! Your color combo with the Phlox is lovely.

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

Med, Thank you! Sadly I did not have any luck with delphs this year. We had more rain then last year. I started some Centurion Rose Delphs this spring but they did not bloom, and my Black Knights did not make it.
The Phlox in that bed really put on a show so they liked the weather conditions this year. Oh well, next year is another season.

Thumbnail by ladygardener1
New Richmond, WI(Zone 3b)

I love Delphs. I have 4 of them. They came from a variety of places. The best one I have, I grew from seed two years ago. I am way up north and it gets cold here. I lost one last year. Don't give up! I will check for seeds. If I have extra, I will post them.

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