Delphinium

Delphinium

Also known as: Larkspur

A common and graceful English garden perennial, the plant's name comes from the world for "little dolphin" in Greek, named after the flower's tightly-furled blossoms that resemble the bottlenose of a dolphin. Delphiniums are normally used to provide height and color in a wildflower or meadow garden. They are part of the buttercup family and are native to North America and northern Africa.

Delphiniums are poisonous flowers (belladonna), but they were thought in ancient times to be medicinal. In fact, a concoction that was thought to drive away scorpions used to be made of the delphinium seeds. The blue color was thought to drive away witches, and the flower can be crushed to make a potent dye. The delphinium is seen throughout history and literature as a royal, elegant flower, and appears several times in Shakespeare's works as its common name, larkspur, or "lark's heel". It is a well-loved flower in England and North America.

The flowers of a delphinium range in color from the typical blue to purple, pink, and white. Some varieties are bicolored. Foliage is light green, lobed with serrated edges. The plant can grow as high as 72 inches and spread out to 36 inches, so ensure that if you plant a delphinium, it has enough room to grow; such as in an outdoor garden. The flowers bloom in late spring to early summer.

Growing Delphiniums

You can grow delphiniums from seed – they will require at least 24 inches of space between them. However, as they are perennials, seeds started this year will not bloom until the next. Delphiniums like a full sun location with extremely fertile soil enriched with humus. The soil should also be well-drained. They prefer a moist, mild climate to grow well. Make sure you prune diligently to keep the plant flowering. Divide in the spring to keep the plants healthy.

Recommended Varieties

Delphiniums have been hybridized and grown over the years to create many varieties and cultivars. Some popular and well-known varieties include "Belladonna", "Elatum" and "Chinese". The flowers vary in color between dark and light blue, purple and even yellow.

Landscape Design Tips

Plant delphiniums where the wind can't get at them, in enriched soil. They make an excellent back-of-the-border plant because of their height.

Gardening Zones

Delphiniums are hardy in zones 3 to 7.

Problems & Pests

Delphiniums require vigilant care to avoid slugs, powdery mildew, grey mold, fungal and bacterial leaf spot, rot, rust, white and leaf smut, and damping off. Proper plant care will result in healthy daylily plants that are less susceptible to these diseases.