Colour/color Digital painting by J. McCombie.
Crocosmia (montbretia) is a small genus of flowering plants in the iris family, Iridaceae. It is native to the grasslands of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa.
They can be evergreen or deciduous perennials that grow from basal underground corms. The basal, alternate leaves are cauline and distichous. The leaves are lanceolate. The blades are parallel-veined. The margin is entire. The corms are unusual in forming vertical chains with the youngest at the top and oldest and largest buried most deeply in the soil. The roots of the lowermost corm in a chain are contractile roots and drag the corm deeper into the ground where conditions allow. The chains of corms are fragile and easily separated, a quality that has enabled some species to become invasive and difficult to control in the garden.
They have colourful inflorescences of 4 to 20 vivid red and orange subopposite flowers on a divaricately (horizontally) branched stem. The terminal inflorescence can have the form of a cyme or a raceme. These flower from early summer well into fall. The flowers are sessile on a flexuose arched spike. The fertile flowers are hermaphroditic. All stamens have an equal length. The style branches are apically forked. They are pollinated by insects, birds (hummingbirds) or by the wind. The dehiscent capsules are shorter than they are wide.
They are commonly known in the United States as coppertips or falling stars, and in the United Kingdom as montbretia. Other names, for hybrids and cultivars, include antholyza, and curtonus. The genus name is derived from the Greek words krokos, meaning “saffron”, and osme, meaning “odor”.
Cousins to the gladiola, these are hardy plants that produce clumps of green sword-shaped leaves, with tall, arching spikes of funnel-shaped blossoms appearing in mid to late summer. Several named varieties are now available, in a range of hot colours. This selection has brilliant flame-red flowers, and a tall habit. Outstanding cut flowers. Clumps should be divided every three years, in spring. Watch for spider mite and thrips on the foliage. In colder regions, the corms can be stored like gladioli, wintered in pots, or mulched heavily outdoors.