Delphinium (Delphinium elatum) known as Delphinium
Delphiniums are perennial plants that deliver prized flowers. They’re also very showy landscape plants especially for cottage gardens. They’re deer resistant, and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
The flowers are arranged on spires up to 3 ft. long and come in different blues and purples as well as a range of pinks and whites.
Many flowers have contrasting centers often called “bees”.
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The plants get from 3-6 ft. tall. They’re well branched, so you can cut the main flowering stem and later cut the side branches for harvest.
They’re great for a back-of-border spot or anywhere, adding a strong vertical element to a garden….but you will be cutting them.
Growing the plants
Delphinium is a heavy feeders and like well-enriched soil, so apply plenty of compost. Give regular water during growth.
These plants usually do best in mild weather summers. But, there is an exception. The Dowdeswell Delphiniums from New Zealand, called the New Zealand Hybrids.
The Dowdeswell family has bred the new hybrids for high quality cut flowers and for enduring some harsh condition where their growing grounds are. They hold up to winds, heat, and prefer full sun, which is not what the regular delphiniums do.
My first attempt at growing delphiniums was with these. My garden was sunny and hot in the summer. In full sun, I had beautiful flowers in early summer then again in late summer through fall. Sadly, I never thought of taking photos. But I’m planting a second ‘Purple Passion’ plant this year. I would plant many more if I had the space. I might squeeze some in…
So, delphiniums typically prefer morning sun and afternoon shade and overall mild temperatures. If this is close to what you have, you can grow the usual varieties. They take Zone 3-7.
But if you need to meet some challenging conditions, like sun and heat, or winds, go for the New Zealand hybrids. They take Zones 3-10a.
Once the first flush of flowers is over, cut the stems back to 6-8 in. Apply compost, and reduce water until there is good growth again. They don’t like warm wet soil.
You can start delphiniums by seed, but many plants are available from almost all nurseries locally and online
Cut the stems and handle the usual way. Cut off any side shoots that are in the way, depending how long a stem you want.
While larkspur (see below for a discussion) is excellent for dried flowers, delphinium is not.
Hands down, the New Zealand hybrids are the best. (They’re also called New Millenium delphiniums.) Magic Fountains, Pacific Giants are the most abundantly available for perennial beds, cottage gardens, and for cutting gardens.
For the New Zealand hybrids here is a link to all suppliers in the world. You can even get them from the source here. Here in Northern California, I get them from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.There’s also Bluestone Perennials.
Here’s anoher nice online nursery, Graceful Gardens that carries a great collection of delphiniums.
And go to your local nursery in the spring!