PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Checker Lily (Fritillaria affinis)

Here’s another PNW native wild flower that is as fascinatingly beautiful as it is ephemeral. Fritillaria is a bulb, and like many bulbs such as Camas and Lilies, they have been gathered and eaten by the traditional stewards of this land since time immemorial. Eventually you could do this if you let your patch of it get big enough for many years, but you’ll appreciate it more as a distinctive sweet little gem in your garden.

Also called ‘Chocolate Lily’, Fritillarias grow as a low tangle of strappy, grassy leaves about a foot high. Slender stems rise just above the foliage and sprout 2-3 nodding tulip-shaped flowers in April and May-ish. The blooms are a rich maroon with dots and dashes of yellowish green scattered over the petals. As the flower matures the dots and dashes seem to organize into a pattern like a checkerboard. It kinda looks unreal at this stage and it’s hard not to stare.

Like all flowering bulbs, Fritillaria will multiply year after year but is far from being invasive. It just grows into a small patch of coolness. It doesn’t need much water. Some. but not much. When summer weather ramps up, Fritillaria hibernates. By the time hot weather arrives you won’t be able to see it was there at all, then it wakes up and grows a bit more in cooler weather. It likes several hours of sun and then bright filtered or indirect light.