Delphinium

A Carithers Flowers Design Favorite

Delphiniums, a member of the Ranunculaceae family, are a genus of annuals and perennials grown for their tall spires of beautiful cup-shaped flowers. The name delphinium derives from the Greek word for “dolphin” because the points and flukes of the flower reminded the Greeks of the dolphin’s fins and nose. Though they are most commonly thought of as blue, they also come in shades of white, pink, lilac, purple, and yellow. Many display a contrasting color in the center or “bee” formed by their inner sepals.

Often used in border and cutting gardens, they flower in single or double blooms in midsummer. Lower growing varieties do well as container plants. Most delphiniums found in gardens today are hybrids of either the D. elatum or D. x belladonna species, both of which are clump-forming, short-lived perennials that should really be treated as hardy annuals. Blossoms are very attractive to birds, but the seeds and plants are poisonous.

Growing Recommendations - Delphinium

Plant delphiniums in the spring, in rich, slightly alkaline soil. They prefer full sun, but can tolerate afternoon shade. Plants sown from fresh seeds are more vigorous than those born of division. When planting, choose a spot near a hedge, window or building to protect the tall stalks from the wind, and allow plenty of space for airflow to prevent mildew. For near perfect flowering, remove all but the two or three strongest shoots that develop in the early spring. After bloom, cut the flower spikes back, leaving the bottom foliage. Once the new shoots grow a few inches, cut the old stalks to the ground. Fertilize to encourage a second bloom in late summer or early fall. For very tall hybrids, such as those in the Belladonna variety, staking individual stalks may be necessary. Divide the plants every 4-5 years to keep them thriving.

Photos of Delphinium

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