Bulb of the Month: Corydalis Solida

Their species name alone is comforting. Which would lead one to think that these little bulbs would be commonly admired and grown but sadly, they’re not. I know I sound like a broken record when I keep ranting about easy to grow yet overlooked exotica,and Corydalis is a classic example. These bulbs are foolproof. At Gardenimport, we’ve sold lots of them over the years and never had a problem, which is quite something when you consider customers are growing them in Zones 3 to 8 all across Canada.

My first experience with this showy bulb was with the straight species C.solida, which I’d bought and planted in the fall. In early spring, pretty, blue-green foliage and curious, dusky-mauve, tubular flowers appeared, growing to about 25cm (10”) tall. By June, the plant had died back and disappeared. Fortunately it reappeared the next year and for many years thereafter.

Corydalis are native to Northern Europe and on into Asia, where they grow in woodlands. A light shade and moist soil offer ideal growing conditions but overall, they’re pretty forgiving plants. Their disappearing act classifies them as “woodland ephemerals,” which can come in handy if you’ve a crowded garden (and who doesn’t?).

Corydalis are unstable with different colour mutations appearing. This trait, combined with indiscriminate sex habits, has led to many different colour forms, some of which have been awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in England. Easy to grow from seed, occasionally they’re offered as strains.

Here are some of the commercially available varieties. They were once rather pricey but my friend John de Goede in Holland has been growing them in abundance.

I don’t know how she was named, but she’s a pure medium pink.

A brilliant scarlet AGM winner that everyone loves at first sight.

A new introduction with wine-purple flowers.

I urge you all to give some of these Corydalis a try this fall. They’re easy to grow, don’t take up much space, and will add new interest to your early spring garden.

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