The hardiest and arguably most spectacular of crocosmias, C. ‘Lucifer’ is worth a place in all but the smallest of gardens.
The seven or so Crocosmia species all originate from South Africa, and since the 19th century considerable hybridizing has given us some wonderful selections for adding colour to the summer garden. Strictly speaking they should be classed as bulbs or corms, but the hardier types in particular are looked upon as perennials. Selecting for hardiness was one of my father Alan Bloom’s intentions, and while working with Percy Piper in 1963 they crossed the hardiest two species: C. masoniorum and C. paniculata.
Several hundred seedlings arose from this cross, and over the next three years they were assessed and reduced to a final six that were named and introduced in 1966 and then sold in 1970.
All six cultivars have stood the test of time, but ‘Lucifer’ has become the gardening world’s favourite Crocosmia. From large clusters of corm-like roots, bright green spear-shaped shoots emerge in spring, quickly forming broad, rich, green, ribbed leaves to 120 cm (4 ft.). It is the earliest Crocosmia to flower, arching heads of vermillion flame flowers on wiry black-green stems, creating an eye-catching display for several weeks. The combination of foliage, flower and attractive seedheads gives ‘Lucifer’ great garden value, especially in plant combinations where the flowers are luminescent against the purple foliage of Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ or Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’.
‘Lucifer’ and other crocosmias need full sun, and even there, given warmth and moisture, the heavy leaves of ‘Lucifer’ can flop later in summer, so may need some maintenance. In hot summer regions, rust can be a problem, and in both cases discretion should be used in cutting away unsightly foliage. ‘Lucifer’ and other crocosmias will grow well enough in any garden soil that is neither too wet nor too dry, but all resent poor drainage in winter. If root growth becomes congested with age, lift in early spring and divide, discard the oldest woody corms, compost the soil and replant.
Protect for winter by mulching corms with 10 cm (4 in.) of leaf mould, or alternatively in very cold areas you can also lift the corms in late autumn, cut off foliage and dry the corms in a frost-free building, and then plant out the next spring. ‘Lucifer’ cuts such a dash that all this effort is rewarded.
120–150 cm (4–5 ft.) ﾁ~ 60–75 cm (2–2. ft.)
Period of interest: Early to late Summer and Autumn