Facts About the Chocolate Lily

Chocolate lilies (Fritillaria camschatcensis) can also be known as Kamchatka fritillary, after the Kamchatka Peninsula in Asia, which is merely one of the regions in which it grows wild. These lilies deliver dark contrasting colors to the flower garden from spring till the end of summer. Chocolate lilies are hardy and bear rabbits and deer.


Chocolate lilies are named after the color of the blossom. The 9- to 18-inch-tall stem is topped by one to eight bell-shaped nodding flowers, 1 1/4 inches long. These flowers look dark purple, almost black. Three whorls of lance-shaped leaves grow around the stem. Chocolate lily is also referred to as the black lily.


Chocolate lilies are native to areas around the Pacific Ocean including Japan, Alaska and the northwestern United States, growing best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. In the wild, these blooms are found growing near streams and lakes as well as in wet meadows, marches, sphagnum bogs and forest wetlands. Chocolate lilies grow under 3,000 feet elevation down to ocean. When growing near the beach, this lily survives short spans of salt water flooding. They function well planted in flower borders or beds where they receive plenty of water.


The rooting structure of the Chocolate lily is composed of small bulblets resembling rice, and has been known as Indian rice at once. This perennial bulb provided a food supply, eaten raw or cooked, before European settlers arrived in western North America. Dried bulbs of the Chocolate lily have been added to soup or pounded into flour.


Propagation of the Chocolate lily is accomplished using the tiny bulblets attached to the parent lights. The lights are broken up in the fall and sown in a combination of equal parts of sand, potting soil and peat moss. The lights are laid on their sides when planted, because it is hard to distinguish the top from the bottom of the bulb. Chocolate lily bulbs bruise easily and decay away in the points of harm. The bulblets are covered lightly with sand or perlite and set in a cold frame. Chocolate lilies can take up to a complete year to sprout, which usually occurs at the spring. The bulblets are divided once they die down the first year and planted in groups of 2 or three in individual plant pots. Following the next growing season, the new plants can be planted outside. It takes approximately three to five years to get these lilies to blossom when grown from bulblets.

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