How to care for delphinium?

Frequently Asked Questions About Delphiniums

1 How do I know if I can grow delphiniums where I live?

The best hint is to check if other (successful) gardeners are already growing them in your area without babying the plants. If they grow easily without special accommodations, that’s a good sign.

Before proceeding, check your growing zone. Delphiniums originate as mountainous plants and do best in a climate that provides a cold (near or below freezing) winter. This helps trigger seed germination and flowering in spring.

To find your growing zone, use the following sites:

  • United States – USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • Canada – Provincial Plant Hardiness Zone Maps

Generally speaking, delphiniums grow in zones 3a to 8b. However, each hybrid and cultivar is unique and may only be suitable for a narrower range of zones. I get emails from gardeners in the southern-ish United States who struggle to keep delphiniums happy when heat is constant even though they are in zone 8 or cooler. Also, always check plant tags before purchasing plants for recommended growing conditions.

A good, local garden nursery is a great resource for plant information. If they are growing and propagating the plants in your zone, be sure to ask for their best tips and plant recommendations.

2 Do delphiniums require any special care?

The beauty of delphiniums is their tall stature and mass of blooms. I have the best luck when I grow delphiniums in a sheltered location (here in Ontario, Canada, zone 6b) where they are protected from strong winds. A strong wind won’t kill the plant but it can snap the flowers off, which defeats the purpose of growing them (unless you want accidentally-cut flowers).

Leggy delphiniums benefit from supports. I place bamboo posts a few inches from the plant base and attach twine, loosely around the plant in a few places. This way, if the wind pushes or pulls the plant, the twine prevents it from falling right over. Because the twine is loose, it does not inhibit or interfere with the growth.

When selecting plants, look for nice, thick stems. There are many beautiful delphinium cultivars, but some of them have massive flowers on rather thin stalks and these can easily fold or collapse, killing off the flowers. Tragic, really.

3 Should I fertilize my delphiniums?

Many advise to use a 16-16-16 kelp and seaweed extract fertilizer because delphiniums are heavy feeders. It is recommended to wait until the plant has established good roots before fertlizing if you want to assist flowering.

That said, I do not use any commercial fertilizers in my garden. You may consider this over-the-top organic growing but here’s my thinking. I grow all sorts of food crops (veggies, fruits, nuts) as well as ornamental plants in containers and the ground. I want to be able to freely use my soil and container mixes without ever having to worry that there is something in there that is not safe for food crops (because it could be absorbed by the plant), or because it is considered hazardous in the soil (potentially harmful to microbes, insects, or other life in the garden). Going fertilizer-free (and pesticide/herbicide-free) removes much of this worry.

So, how do my delphiniums grow so nicely? I choose good plants, with strong, thick stalks. My sandy soil is constantly amended with compost from my food scraps and covered in organic mulch (usually wood chips). I also plant everything closely together to prevent weed growth and shade the roots, which keeps more moisture in.

4 Can I grow delphiniums in containers?

Yes. You will need proper container mix made for flowering perennials. You may need to use fertilizer or replace most of the container mix each year to ensure the plant has what it needs to grow and bloom. And, you will need to ‘over-winter’ the container. This means moving it to a protected location during the winter. This post on over-wintering fig trees outlines the steps.

5 What is the best way to start new delphinium plants?

If you want to propagate new plants from existing ones, the fastest way is to divide a large (mature) plant by digging it up and splitting the root ball in two (or more pieces).

Another method is to take ‘basal’ root cuttings in spring. This involves partially digging up the plant and taking a section of the roots for propagating in a container. There’s a specific window of time for this which I famously forget about each spring.

For germination by seed, in autumn, toss some seeds in your garden bed, cover them lightly with soil, mark the spot, and leave them to germinate in spring.

This article shares more info on propagating delphiniums. If you plan to grow from seeds indoor, see this tip for getting delphinium seeds to sprout faster.

6 How can I get a full-season of blooms from delphiniums?

The trick is to cut them back after first flowering. When the late spring flowers have started to fade, trim most of the flower stalks down to the ground, leaving the surrounding growth. You should get a second set of flowers before fall frosts set in. You can read more about this method here.

7 My garden is windy. Is there a way to grow delphiniums without the wind breaking them?

Yes. There are some dwarf varieties with nice thick stems and dense flower heads. Look for the Delphinium Blue Fountains Group. They are one of my top favorites with their gorgeous blue colors.

I hope you find this helpful, and, if you have any questions let me know.

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛

Next

  • How to Get Delphiniums to Bloom Twice in One Season | Easy trick for more flowers
  • Secrets for Growing Gorgeous Delphiniums | Can you tell they are my faves?
  • Germination Tricks for Stubborn Seeds | This works for delphiniums

Delphinium

Delphinium

Most commonly grown for its beautiful, tall spires of blue blooms, delphinium has long been planted in perennial gardens. These elegant plants add a beautiful vertical element. Since some varieties can grow up to 6 feet tall, plant these at the back of a garden border. If blue isn’t your color, you can choose a delphinium in a few other colors, too!

genus name
  • Delphinium
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Perennial
height
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet
width
  • 1 to 3 feet
flower color
  • Blue,
  • Purple,
  • Red,
  • White,
  • Pink,
  • Yellow
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant
special features
  • Good for Containers,
  • Cut Flowers
zones
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7
propagation
  • Seed

Colorful Combinations

Delphiniums are sought after and planted for their blue flowers, which are rare to find in other plants. These beautiful blues can come in a variety of shades and forms. Many feature a white center, which adds a bright contrast to the deep, rich blue. Most delphiniums are in the blue and purple range, but they can also be found in pinks and reds. There are some stunning coral-colored varieties, and even some rare ones in yellow. These plants have attractive foliage in a pleasing green, with palm-shaped leaves like a fern.

See more big perennials for big impact.

Delphinium Care Must-Knows

Delphinium plants are well loved, but they can be fairly short lived and picky when it comes to garden conditions. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that delphiniums don’t like hot summers—they perform best in mild weather. When it does get hot, plants can melt out and die back to the ground. If you’re lucky, they may come back as it cools back down. In anything warmer than Zone 7, these plants are typically treated as annuals.

See more perennial problem solvers.

Plant delphiniums in humus-rich, well-drained, organic soils. While it’s important to keep the plants consistently moist (they don’t handle drought well), be sure that the soil has proper drainage. Standing water can lead to crown rot, which causes the whole base of the plant to rot, which will eventually lead to death.

Ideally, delphiniums should be planted in full sun for the best blooms and sturdiest stems. In too much shade, especially in humid climates, foliage fungus issues can arise. Powdery mildew, botrytis, and leaf spot are all common problems that delphiniums deal with. The best fungal control method is prevention, so make sure plants are in well-ventilated areas and full sun to keep foliage dry. If your plant needs any supplemental watering, make sure to do it at the base of the plant so the leaves stay dry.

Because these plants are tall, they often need staking or support from neighboring plants. Once their blooms are finished, deadhead them, because you can usually get a small second bloom after.

See more on staking perennials.

Garden Plans For Delphinium

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More Varieties for Delphinium

‘Blue Butterfly’ delphinium

Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Blue Butterfly’ grows to only 14 inches tall and has deep blue flowers with a hint of purple. Chinese delphinium tolerates heat better than regular delphinium, blooming through most of the summer. Zones 4-7

‘King Arthur’ delphinium

Delphinium elatum ‘King Arthur’ is one of the Round Table Hybrids with 5- to 6-foot-tall flower spikes. It has reddish-purple flowers with a creamy white center, called a bee. Zones 3-7

‘Dasante Blue’ delphinium

Delphinium elatum ‘Dasante Blue’ is a compact selection with rich blue flowers with light purple tones. It grows 34 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Zones 4-7

Magic Fountains delphinium

Delphinium elatum Magic Fountains Series are bushy 2-1/2- to 3-foot-tall plants with blue, pink, or white flowers. Zones 3-7

Pacific Giants Series delphinium

Delphinium elatum Pacific Giants Series are towering plants with bloom stalks reaching up to 7 feet tall. Colors range from light blue to white, pink, and purple. Zones 3-7

‘Summer Blues’ delphinium

Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Blues’ offers soft blue flowers in summer. It grows 14 inches tall. Zones 4-7

‘Summer Stars’ delphinium

Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Stars’ is a dwarf variety that produces pure-white flowers in summer. It grows 12-14 inches tall. Zones 4-7

‘Summer Morning’ delphinium

Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Morning’ is the first true pink variety of Chinese delphinium. It grows 12-14 inches tall, blooming all summer long on well-branched plants. Zones 4-7

Plant Delphinium With:

Joe Pye weed is a showstopper of a prairie native, producing huge, puffy flower heads in late summer. It prefers moist soils, but with its extensive root system, it also tolerates drought well. It is a large plant, growing 4 to 6 feet tall. Closely related, hardy ageratum is a spreading plant that grows to 2 feet tall. Another relative, white snakeroot, reaches 4 to 5 feet tall. All are great for naturalistic or cottage plantings and for attracting butterflies.

This hardworking group of perennials does so much. Hyssops bloom for a long time in wonderful colors atop tall, striking plants. They produce a nectar that is irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies. Most are heat and drought tolerant. And their foliage and flowers are fragrant, with scents ranging from licorice to bubblegum. Most require well-drained soil and prefer full sun, although they will tolerate light shade.

There are hundreds of different types of salvias, commonly called sage. They all tend to share beautiful, tall flower spikes and attractive, often gray-green leaves. Countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens, and new selections appear annually. They are valued for their very long season of bloom, right up until frost. All are not hardy in cold climates, but they are easy to grow as annuals. On square stems, clothed with often-aromatic leaves, sages carry dense or loose spires of tubular flowers in bright blues, violets, yellow, pinks, or reds that mix well with other perennials in beds and borders. Provide full sun or very light shade in well-drained average soil.

Delphinium Stock Photos and Images

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  • Delphinium. Schreiner’s iris Gardens. Brooks, Oregon
  • Delphinium detail
  • Larkspur flowers, Delphinium elatum
  • Larkspur Delphinium blue flower close up
  • Two perfect spikes of Delphinium Bluebird. Dorset, UK June 2010
  • delphinium flower in the garden
  • Delphinium elatum Ann Woodford on trial at RHS Delphinium trials 2007
  • Larkspur Delphinium Piccolo and rose Léonardo de Vinci in garden
  • White delphinium, ‘Jill Curley’
  • Delphinium or larkspur (Delphinium)
  • Delphinium flowers ‘Blue Dawn’
  • Delphinium ‘Titania’
  • Blue delphinium flower isolated on white background
  • Violet delphinium flower
  • Delphinium fissum
  • Blue delphinium in walled garden, England, UK
  • Menzies Larkspur Delphinium menziesii Cone Peak Cascade Mounts Oregon
  • Guardian Blue Delphinium flowers in garden border, Rutland, England, UK.
  • Delphinium flower isolated on a white background
  • Larkspur (Delphinium)
  • DELPHINIUM FANFARE PLUS OTHERS OF ELATUM GROUP
  • France, Calvados, Cambremer,Pays d’Auge garden, Jardin de l’amour courtois with roses and Delphinium
  • Larkspur Delphinium blue flower close up
  • Blue Delphinium flower with water droplets
  • delphinium flower in the garden
  • Blue delphinium blossom in the garden
  • Blue delphinium flower with green leaves on light gray background
  • Sky blue Delphinium ‘Carol Fishenden’
  • Candle Larkspur (Delphinium elatum), flowering, Thuringia, Germany
  • Delphinium flowers ‘Can-Can’ (dark purple) and ‘Gillian Dallas’ (light purple)
  • Delphinium ‘Dewy Boy’, Larkspur. Spire shaped single stem with abundant blue flowers against a white background.
  • Delphinium in flower
  • Delphinium
  • blue delphinium
  • Flowers of Delphinium elatum ‘After Midnight’ in June.
  • Close-up of a gardener tying in a delphinium to bamboo canes
  • Pale blue Delphiniums and yellow Achillea form an interesting association in an English herbaceous border at Waterperry Gardens
  • Violet delphinium flower
  • DELPHINIUM MIGHTY ATOM GROWING IN A SUMMER BORDER
  • dark blue delphinium flower isolated on white
  • Delphiniums in the herbaceous border at Waterperry gardens, Oxfordshire, England
  • Delphinium Magic Fountains in early June
  • Delphinium Tatsience
  • delphinium flower in the garden
  • Garden Larkspur (Delphinium elatum), variety: Lanzentraeger, flowering
  • Delphiniums blooming at Alnwick Garden in Northumberland.
  • English Country Garden – Delphinium (Guardian Blue) has deep blue petals with white centres
  • Pink and blue Delphiniums, Larkspurs (Delphinium)
  • Delphinium elatum Leonora
  • Delphinium ‘Blue Bird’ blue delphiniums garden plant plants flower flowers
  • Delphinium
  • Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum, Wildflowers, Zion National Park, Utah, USA
  • Delphinium 1924 LOVIS CORINTH (1858-1925) German Germany
  • delphiniums
  • Delphinium ‘Whispers’
  • Delphinium with background blooms. Schneider’s Gardens. Oregon
  • Flower of Delphinium (Larkspur), isolated on white background
  • DELPHINIUM MIGHTY ATOM GROWING IN A SUMMER BORDER
  • blue Larkspur, Delphinium elatum
  • Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium brachycentrum, buttercup, Ranunculaceae) wildflower, Denali National Park, Alaska, USA
  • Delphinium Blue Lace, Ranunculaceae, tall herbaceous perennial
  • Smokey glass vase with white delphinium flower display inside
  • delphinium flower in the garden
  • Garden Larkspur (Delphinium elatum), variety: Jubelruf, flowering
  • Spaced out lilac and brown flowers of the herbaceous biennial, Delphinium requienii
  • English Country Garden – Delphinium (Guardian Blue) has deep blue petals with white centres
  • Blue Larkspur (Delphinium)
  • Delphinium elatum Gallileo – summer flowering perennial
  • Delphinium
  • Delphinium ‘Rosemary Brock’ close up of flowers
  • Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum, Wildflowers, Zion National Park, Utah, USA
  • Delphinium Fanfare flower
  • Delphinium
  • Delphinium ‘Loch Leven’
  • Goldstrum’ Rudbeckia and blue Delphinium ‘Summer Skies. Al’s Garden. Woodburn, Oregon.
  • Flower of Delphinium (Larkspur), isolated on white background
  • Delphinium ‘Guy Langdon’
  • Delphinium Princess Caroline
  • Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium brachycentrum, buttercup, Ranunculaceae) wildflower, Denali National Park, Alaska, USA
  • The colorful Pacific Giant Larkspur, Delphinium elatum.
  • Detail of a colourful border with Delphinium ‘Magic Fountain’
  • Delphinium, Rittersporn, larkspur
  • Classical statue with delphiniums. Delphinium ‘Blue Dawn’, Verbena bonariensis
  • Close up shot of the intricate tricoloured double flowers of the hardy perennial Delphinium (Highlander series) ‘Blueberry PIe’
  • Delphinium ‘Tiddles’
  • Delphinium or Larkspur (Delphinium), Bavarian horticultural show 2012 in Bamberg, Upper Franconia, Franconia, Bavaria
  • Delphinium elatum Michael Ayres at Wisley RHS reials
  • blue larkspur delphinium wildflowers with green background
  • Delphinium ‘Loch Nevis’ close up of flower spike
  • Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum, Wildflowers, Zion National Park, Utah, USA
  • Delphinium Fanfare flower
  • Larkspur flowers, Delphinium elatum
  • Delphinium ‘Loch Leven’
  • Delphinium F1 Aurora Pink Dawn flowers.
  • Flower of Delphinium (Larkspur), isolated on white background
  • Jardins du pays d’Auge, Normandy, France, here, ‘jardin de l’amour courtois’ with trimmed boxes Delphinium, roses
  • Delphinium grandiflorum ‘ Summer Morning’
  • blue delphinium flowers, Butchart gardens, Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
  • white blue delphinium flower spike flowers floweringspire tall herbaceous perennial bloom blooming
  • Delphinium Blue Bird, pacific giant blue bird.

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Care Of Delphinium Flowers: Tips For Growing Delphinium Plants

Delphinium flowers beautify the summer garden with showy, spiky blooms on a tall, sometimes towering stem. Delphiniums come in a range of shades. Many gardeners wonder how to grow delphinium and some avoid planting them after hearing that the plant is difficult to grow. What are the secrets to the correct care of delphinium? Read more for tips about delphinium planting and how to get the best performance from growing delphinium plants.

About Delphinium Plants

One commonly thinks of delphinium plants (Delphinium) as having true blue flowers, which is the most common color. But numerous hybrids are available in shades of pink, lavender, red, white and yellow. Blooms may be single or double.

Delphinium planting is normally at the back of the bed, where flower spikes can reach 2 to 6 feet (.6-2 m.) tall. Delphinium flowers are often planted in masses or groups. Shorter varieties are useful in other areas of the garden.

How to Grow Delphinium

Grow delphinium plants in a sunny area with soil that is consistently moist. Don’t let them dry out. Mulch helps retain moisture and keeps roots cool. Performance of this specimen is enhanced when growing delphinium plants in neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH. Soil should be well-draining.

Care of delphinium should include regular fertilization in spring when the plant begins to grow, and during the flowering period. Work in well-composted organic material such as rotted cow manure, or use a basic 10-10-10 granular fertilizer. Yellowing foliage or stunted growth often indicates the plant needs more fertilizer.

Sun exposure is another aspect of care of delphinium that the gardener must get right for the showy blooms to appear. Gentle morning sun is preferable to the delphinium plants, which are picky about extreme differences in temperatures. Provide afternoon shade, especially when planted in hotter zones.

Special Tips for Delphinium Plants

An important aspect of caring for the thought to be difficult delphinium is deadheading the first blooms in early summer. Remove flower stalks when blooms are spent. When all blooms are removed and moisture and fertilization requirements are met, the gardener can expect a bountiful blast of blooms in late summer or early autumn. This is when delphinium flowers are at their most beautiful. Often, this may be the final show for the short-lived perennial, but the striking beauty and long lasting blooms are worth the effort.

Taller varieties may require staking, especially when planted in areas with heavy rain or wind. Stems are hollow and break easily under this type of stress.

Some disease and insect pests may attack delphiniums, keep an eye on young plants and when planting delphiniums, make sure soil conditions are right for the plant. Delphiniums may be propagated from seed or basal cuttings; however, don’t propagate from diseased plants.

Now that you’ve learned how to grow delphiniums, get started with delphiniums grown from seed, starting indoors in late winter. Add a few new delphinium plants each year so you’ll always have the showy blooms in your yard.

Delphiniums – A Spectacular Garden Flower

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Delphiniums are majestic flowering plants. Their long, colorful flower spikes are spectacular additions to the garden.

Delphiniums have been cultivated and hybridized for many years resulting in some name confusion. Delphiniums are often called larkspurs. While the larkspur and delphinium are similar, they are actually different plant species. Many of the delphiniums grown in gardens today are hybrids of Delphinium x elatum. The name delphinium is derived from the Greek word delphis, which refers to the dolphin-shaped flower buds before they open. Flowers are usually blue, but also come in white, pink, red, violet, and purple. The true larkspur is Consolida ambigua. The common name larkspur comes from the shape of the flower, which resembles a lark’s spur or claw. Larkspurs have daintier flower spikes with fewer florets and fine, more deeply cut leaves.

Some delphiniums grow up to 6 feet tall, making them excellent background plants. Others are much shorter. The Chinese delphinium (Delphinium grandiflorum) grows 2 to 3 feet tall and is a good choice as an accent in the middle or front of the perennial border. The Belladonna delphinium (Delphinium x belladonna) is a cross between D. elatum and D. graniflorum. Plants produce multiple flower stems that grow to 3 to 4 feet. ‘Dwarf Pacific’ hybrids grow only 2 feet tall. ‘Blue Butterfly’ is one of the shortest delphiniums maturing at 15 inches.

Delphiniums perform best in well-drained soils in full sun. They are heavy feeders and should be fertilized in early spring and later in the season. Stunted growth and yellow foliage are signs the plants need additional fertilizer.

The flower spikes of delphinium are hollow and brittle. Tall growing hybrids should be staked as wind and rain on the heavy, flower-laden spikes will cause the stems to snap and break. Stakes should be installed early in the growing season to prevent damage to the plant’s root system and provide early support.

Most delphinium hybrids bloom from early to mid-summer. They are good cut flowers and will last about 6 to 8 days in a vase. Immediately after flowering, cut off the old flower stalk to encourage additional flowering in late summer or early fall. The flower spikes produced during the second flower display won’t be as large or as full as the first bloom. The Chinese delphinium is a summer-blooming species. It blooms throughout the summer if the plants are cut back regularly.

Larkspur spikes can easily be air-dried. Harvest spikes when about four-fifths of the florets on the spikes are open. Remove the foliage and hang small bunches of spikes upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area. When the flowers feel papery, they should be stood upright to finish drying.

While delphiniums are spectacular plants, many are short-lived perennials. Most last only 2 or 3 years in the garden.

A word of caution to gardeners with small children. All parts of the delphinium and larkspur are poisonous.

Larkspur, Annual Delphinium

Larkspur resembles the delphinium, with its stately spikes of flowers in cool pastel colors. Formerly lumped with delphiniums, botanists split them off and named them Consolida, an old Latin term for “an undetermined plant.”

Description of larkspur: Larkspur grows up to 4 feet tall with delphiniumlike flowers, single or double, evenly spaced around the long stem above lacy, gray-green foliage. Although blue is favored, larkspur also flowers in pink, salmon, rose, lavender, purple, and white.

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Growing larkspur: Grow in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. If exposed to high winds, larkspur may need staking. It performs best in cool weather. In Zones 7 to 10, seeds may be sown early enough in the fall so that young plants would bloom early in the spring. In other zones, seeds can be sown late in the fall so that they would germinate in the spring. Remove spent blossoms to encourage bloom.

Propagating larkspur: By seed. Sow in place because larkspur does not transplant well. Sow in the fall or as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. For summer and fall blooms in cool climates, successively sow 2 to 3 weeks apart until mid-May.

Uses for larkspur: Groups of delphinium backing informal annuals can give a cottage garden look. Group them at the side or at the back of the flower border or center them in island beds to lend height. They’re good cut flowers and may be dried for winter bouquets.

Larkspur related species: Many of the true perennial delphiniums may be grown as summer annuals. Pacific hybrids are widely grown and hybrids of Delphinium belladonna are also planted. Compact hybrids (2 to 3 feet high) grown from seed are Blue Springs and Blue Fountains.Larkspur related varieties: A favorite is the Imperial series that branches freely from the base. Dozens of selections in mixes or single colors are available. Scientific name for larkspur: Consolida ambiguaWant more gardening information? Try:

Delphinium grandiflorum

  • Common Name: Larkspur
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Height: 12-14”
  • Spread: 6-8”
  • Sun/Shade Requirements: Full sun
  • Water Requirements: Requires regular watering, do not allow the soil to dry out.
  • Soil Requirements: Organically rich well drained soil with a neutral pH or slightly alkaline.
  • Growth Habit: Mounded foliage with an open habit.
  • Bloom Time: June – July
  • Bloom Color: Deep blue
  • Bloom Form: Asymmetrical with five petals.
  • Foliage: Small finely toothed leaves
  • Fragrance: None
  • Pest and Disease Resistance: May be susceptible to powdery mildew, black spot, crown rot, aphids, leaf miners and mites.
  • Fertilize: Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 3-4 weeks up until they bloom, and again after the spent blooms are cut back until they bloom again. Or apply well composted manure or a granular 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of the plant in early spring and again after cut back. Do not over fertilize with high nitrogen, blooming period will be reduced.
  • Maintenance: Remove flower stalks after blooms are faded to encourage rebloom. Divide every two to four years to preserve the health of the plant.
  • Other: Deer resistant, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • Hardiness: Zones 3-8

‘Blue Butterfly’ blooms are a rich true blue, a unique color difficult to find in any annual or perennial. Hints of violet can be seen at the tips of some petals and the centers. The flower stalks are broad and branched. Flowers are held close to the foliage mound. Remove the flower stalks when blooms have faded for continued blooming to the end of summer. Do not remove the final blooms if you would like it to reseed. ‘Blue Butterfly’ has a short life typical of delphinium, so allowing it to reseed will keep it in your garden. If your garden bed is mulched, the seeds may have difficulty getting started. Plants grown from seed will bloom the first year. ‘Blue Butterfly’ has a bushy, but well behaved mound of foliage. It is a true dwarf so is perfect for front of the border. Also excellent as a container plant.

Delphinium Is the Flower Your Garden Has Been Missing

AndreaAstes/Getty Images

They’re striking—and unmistakable. Delphiniums are towering columns of bright blooms that can reliably add a dose of drama to any landscape. They’re often found in classic English cottage gardens, and their distinctive blooms are great additions to cutting gardens across the U.S. too. While these flowers have developed a reputation for being finicky plantings in the Southern states—they balk at the heat and humidity of our summers—they’re just plain gorgeous, which is why we’ve figured out ways to keep planting them. Read on to learn how to make delphiniums feel at home in your garden.

About Delphiniums

Delphiniums get their name from the Greek delphinion, meaning “dolphin,” as some species are said to resemble the saltwater swimmers. Delphiniums usually bloom during the spring and early summer months, and they produce tall columns of brightly colored flowers in shades of blue, pink, lavender, yellow, red, and white. The native species are reliably perennial, and some of the striking (though more difficult to tend) hybrid species can be treated as annuals if necessary.

Delphinium or Larkspur?

The genus delphinium includes several species that also go by the common name larkspur, so the names are often used interchangeably. Larkspur is also a common name used for flowers in the genus Consolida, including Consolida ajacis, a relative of plants in the genus delphinium. Both of the genera are part of the family Ranunculaceae.

Why You Should Grow Delphiniums

Aside from the fact that the tall stems of brightly colored blooms are just gorgeous in the garden, certain delphinium species are also known to attract butterflies and bees. In a garden design, they can add visual interest with height, shape, and color. If you have many low-to-the-ground plantings in your cutting garden, consider adding delphiniums for an infusion of vertical variety. While most delphinium species reach heights from 1 to 6 feet tall, some hybrids grow much higher.

Types of Delphiniums

Candle delphinium (Delphinium elatum)
Also known as candle larkspur, this delphinium species blooms in shades including blue, purple, pink, and white. This group is where you’ll find many hybrid selections, including the Pacific strain hybrids, which have been known to grow to 8 feet tall. Selections include ‘Percival,’ which is white with a black center; ‘Summer Skies,’ which blooms in light blue hues; and ‘Blue Bird,’ which has bright blue flowers.

Carolina larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum)
This plant is native to the Southeast and Midwest. It has a narrow form and bursts into a heavy showing of blue or white blooms in spring. Afterward, during the summer months, it goes dormant. Prairie larkspur (previously Delphinium virescens), also called white larkspur, is a sub-species that’s native from Texas to Canada. It’s heat-tolerant and produces tall stalks of delicate, widely spaced white flowers that bloom from spring into summer.

Chinese delphinium (Delphinium grandiflorum, D. chinense)
Also known as bouquet delphinium or Siberian larkspur, this heat-tolerant species produces large, deep blue flowers that grow in bushy masses of loose, asymmetrical formations. Selections include ‘Dwarf Blue Mirror,’ which grows to 1 foot tall, and ‘Tom Thumb,’ which grows to 8 inches tall.

Delphinium x belladonna
This delphinium group produces full, dense forms with light and delicate clusters of flowers. Selections include ‘Belladonna’ (light blue), ‘Bellamosum’ (dark blue), ‘Casa Blanca’ (white), and ‘Cliveden Beauty’ (deep turquoise).

Tall larkspur (Delphinium exaltatum)
Tall larkspur is native to the U.S. and grows north to Pennsylvania and south to Alabama. It produces bright blue flowers and reaches heights of 3 to 6 feet tall. It’s both a drought- and shade-tolerant planting.

How To Grow Delphiniums

These plants need rich soil that’s very porous, and they do best with regular watering and feeding in a spot where they can receive full sun. Because they grow to considerable heights, these flowers also require staking to ensure stability in the garden. To get them started, per The Southern Living Garden Book, “Delphiniums are easy to grow from seed. In the Middle, Lower, and Coastal South, sow fresh seed in flats or pots filled with potting soil in July or August, and set out transplants in October for bloom in late spring and early summer. In the Upper South, sow seed in March or April and set out transplants in June or July for first bloom by September (and more bloom the following spring).”

Bloom-Boosting Tip

According to The Southern Living Garden Book, “If you live in the Upper South, you can set off a burst of delphinium blooms like those you see in English gardens. When new stalks appear in spring, remove all but the strongest two or three, tie to stakes, and apply a bloom-booster fertilizer. After blooms fade, cut stalks nearly to the ground, leaving foliage at the bottom. Fertilize again and you may get a second bloom.”

Careful!

All parts of the delphinium plant (especially the very young delphinium plants) are toxic to humans and animals, so take care not to ingest them, and keep them away from children, pets, and livestock.

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Delphinium, Larkspur

Delphinium, or larkspur, derives its genus’ name from the Greek word for “dolphin” and is suggested by the shape of a gland in the blossoms that secretes nectar. Many delphiniums are poisonous to cattle.Description of delphinium, larkspur: The alternate leaves are cut and divided. Plants produce tall spikes of showy flowers, usually in shades of blue, each having a long spur behind the petals. Ease of care: Moderately difficult.

: Delphiniums are worth almost any effort to grow because they are so beautiful. They need full sun and a good, deep, well-drained, evenly moist soil that has a high humus content. If the soil is too acid, agricultural lime should be added. They are hardy feeders that must be supplied with compost or well-rotted manure, benefiting from feedings of a 5-10-5 fertilizer every year.

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The area where they grow should have some protection from high winds because the hollow flower stalks, though strong, are often so covered with flowers that they can easily break in the breeze. Many gardens use delphiniums in front of stone walls for this reason. Without such protection, the gardener will have to resort to staking.

After flowering, flower heads should be removed unless seeds are wanted. Surprisingly, these plants are very cold-hardy and resent hot climates and long, blistering summers, Delphiniums are short-lived perennials that lose their vitality after two to three years. Since they grow easily from seeds and cuttings, propagation is never a problem.

Propagating delphinium, larkspur: By cuttings, by seed, or by careful division.

: Short delphiniums can be used in the front of a garden, the Belladonna hybrids in the middle, and the tall Pacific Coast hybrids in the rear. They are excellent cut flowers, too.

Delphinium, larkspur related species: Only hardy to USDA 8, Delphinium cardinale, or scarlet larkspurs, are lovely flowers for the summer garden. Delphinium elatum, or the candle larkspur, is one of the sources for many of the most beautiful delphinium hybrids today. Reaching to 6 feet, the flowers are now available in white, lavender, blue, and purple.

The Belladonna hybrids are light blue with 5-foot stalks and, if spent flowers are removed, they will usually produce blooms all summer long. Casa Blanca is pure white. The Blackmore and Langdon hybrids were first developed in 1905. Today’s plants bear pastel blue, lavender, white, violet, and indigo flowers on 4- to 5-foot stems. The Pacific Coast hybrids produce 7-foot stalks that must be staked even when given protection; the flowers in various shades of blue and pink are spectacular. Magic Fountain is a dwarf version growing to 30 inches with double blooms.

Connecticut Yankee is a bush delphinium with single flowers of mixed colors on 30-inch stalks. Delphinium grandiflorum (sometimes called D. chinensis), or the Siberian larkspur, has finely cut foliage and blue flowers on 2- to 3-foot stalks, blooming the first year from seed if started early. Blue Mirror has gentian-blue flowers, and Alba is white.

Scientific name of delphinium, larkspur: Delphinium species

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