A Flowering Paradise: Tips for Growing Larkspur

Larkspur-Feature

 

Larkspur is the common name for a species of plants belonging to either the delphinium class or the consolida class. The delphinium version is perennial, while the consolida class is annual. Larkspur comes in a beautiful array of colors, ranging from white, pink, lavender, and blue. Some variations have darker, contrasting centers.

Larkspur is best suited to US growing season. Hardiness zones are between 3 and 7, and it will not do well in areas with hot summers. Larkspur reaches heights of anywhere from 2-6 feet, and blooms in early summer. It does well in areas of full sun to partial shade, and it prefers to have full morning sun as opposed to afternoon sun in warmer climates.

Foliage is shaped like a maple leaf, and flowers grow in multiples along a spiky stalk. Plant larkspur in moist, well drained soil. Keep them planted close to an area that will shelter them from heavy winds, such as along the perimeter of a house or fence. As they have hollow stems, taller versions will require staking for proper support.

Planting larkspur

Larkspur requires a cold period for proper germination, so seeds should be chilled before sowing. One way to do this is to wrap the seeds in a moist paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. Then, keep the bag in a refrigerator for about two weeks before sowing. Remember to keep the paper towel moist.

In colder areas, seeds can be planted in early spring after
the ground is workable. In warmer climates, plant in late fall
and allow them to germinate over the winter. Seeds should
not be started indoors, as larkspur is notoriously difficult to
transplant.Larkspur

Before sowing, prepare the bed by thoroughly weeding and tilling the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Work in a layer of composted organic material at about a 3 inch thickness, and add an additional 1/4 inch thick layer of wood ash to alkalize the soil. Using a rake, make a series of furrows about 1/4 inch deep into the soil. Lightly sprinkle seeds into the furrows, cover with soil, and immediately water with a gentle spray.

The soil should feel moist for the top inch or so. Remember to keep the seeds consistently moist while they germinate, but do not over water. The top 1/4 inch of the soil should never be allowed to dry out completely. Within 20-30 days, the plants should begin to germinate. Once the plants begin producing foliage, they can be thinned back to a spacing of about 8-10 inches between each plant. In areas with warmer summers, and also just in general, mulch around the base of the plants to keep them cool and moist during warm weather. Larkspur can be given fertilizer about four weeks after germination, at a 12-12-12 ratio.

Larkspur Growing Tips

  • Larkspur blooms earlier than most flowers, so you can time the planting of the seeds or pair them with other plants to create year round color in your garden.
  • Larkspur grow very rapidly, and need to be kept well-watered during this time to encourage them to grow faster. They usually like to be watered once or twice a week.
  • Larkspur is very susceptible to fungal disease, which will manifest as yellow leaves and wilting plants. They are also highly affected by mildew. Early signs of disease include black or white spots on the leaves or a stringy substance covering the foliage. Treat infested plants immediately with a fungicide. If plants show signs of heavy disease, remove them completely or they will spread the fungus to other plants.
  • Larkspur is poisonous to children and pets. Every part of the plant can cause poisoning, so you may want to reconsider planting larkspur if you have small children, cattle, or pets.
  • Larkspur has horizontally growing underground stems with lateral shoots, also known as a rhizome. Established plants can be separated from their rhizomes, and the rhizomes can then be used for replanting.
  • When cutting flowers for an indoor bouquet, be sure to cut them just before their blooms peak. Cut the entire stem off, as this will encourage more flowers to bloom. If you would simply like to just deadhead the flowers, you only need to remove the stem just below the fading bloom.
  • Larkspur should be planted in the back section of the garden, as they tower over many other plants. The taller varieties will need to be secured to a 3-4 foot stake. However, dwarf varieties are available which do not need to be staked and can be planted in the forefront of a garden. Either way, protect their delicate stalks from wind damage.
  • The annual variety of larkspur (consolida) is a bit more resilient than its perennial cousin. If you live in a warmer climate, or have had trouble with growing perennial larkspur in the past, try growing the annual variety instead. Though they have shorter bloom-spans and will not self-seed, annual larkspur makes up for this by being lower maintenance.

 

Sources:

http://home.howstuffworks.com/delphinium-larkspur.htm

http://www.gardeningchannel.com/how-to-grow-larkspur-flowers/

Photo Credit:

Photographer Dielmann offered the photograph of Larkspur under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay

Photographer Hans Braxmeier offered the photograph of Larkspur under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay