Annual Delphinium

Annual Delphinium

Delphinium, also known as Larkspur, is a member of the genus Ranunculaceae family of flowers. This perennial is known for its tall spike-like spurred columns of showy flowers in colors including red, blue, yellow and white. The delphinium plant is highly toxic and can cause death if sufficient amounts are ingested.

The leaves of the delphinium plant have 3 to 7 teeth on deeply formed lobes reminiscent of a maple leaf. The stems can range from 4 to 6 inches and 1/2 foot tall. The flowers have 5 petals, which form the spur that gives the plant its name.
 The annual delphiniums are cool weather annuals, closely related to the delphiniums, and sometimes included in that genus as Delphinium consolida. These plants bloom in spring and summer with blue, white, pink or lilac florets on spikes 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall. They are shorter, less spectacular plants than the true delphiniums, which are towering plants. The leaves are bright green and finely dissected. The flowering spike may be single or branched. The individual florets are about two inches across, and bear an upward curving spur at the rear of the corolla - hence the common name.

There are both annual and perennial members of this tall and showy, flower family. These spiked flowers originated in Europe and are found naturally in forest clearings. They re an old-fashioned favorite. Gorgeous spikes come in jewel-like shades of blue, lavender and diamond-bright white, some with darker center spots.
With many vanities in this family, Delphinium plants range in size from about one foot to several feet.
(Caution: All parts of Delphinium are poisonous and could be fatal. If you have children or pets, you might want to steer clear of this flower. )
Site Preparation
Most varieties of delphinium prefer humus-rich, fertile, moist soil. Partial shade should be provided in hot areas and the soil should be well drained.
Special Features
Delphinium has been used in herbal medicine for centuries.
Tall delphiniums can be used a focal points in borders or as accents against hedges and buildings.
Delphiniums make lovely cut flowers in flower arrangements by themselves or with other flowers.
Choosing a Variety
Choose delphiniums based upon the intended use in the garden. The smaller delphinium plants can create borders and accents in any garden scheme, while the larger plants add emphasis and highlights where needed.

Delphinium can be grown from seed or from established plants from the nursery or garden center. Seeds should be started in 6-inch pots with 2 to 4 seeds per pot. Press the seeds into the soil and cover. Thin to 2 plants per pot.

Potted delphinium plants should be transplanted in late April into prepared beds. Dig holes approximately 7 inches deep and 4 inches around. Add a light fertilizer or compost to the bottom of the hole. Carefully remove the plants from the container and place in the hole, gently shaking the roots to loosen. Space delphinium plants 1 foot apart. Cover and water thoroughly to remove any air pockets from around the roots.
Delphinium plants should be staked to keep them erect. Pound a stake several inches away from the plant and tie loosely with plant tape or sections of old panty hose. A light fertilizer can be applied to the plants in the early spring. Remove any remaining stems from the previous season before the new growth begins in the late spring. Delphiniums require the equivalent of 1 inch of water weekly to thrive.

Remove deadheads to encourage the plant to rebloom. Delphiniums, because of their alkaloid properties, are unlikely to have insect pests, and if spaced appropriately are very disease resistant.

Seeds can be collected from the spent buds in mid to late fall.

Insect and Disease:
Fungal disease is common, most notably Sclerotium rot which yellows leaves and wilts plant. Delphinium is also affected by mildew. Treat affected plants immediately with a general purpose fungicide. Remove seriously diseased plants to keep the disease from spreading.
Insect problems are less frequent. Organic or chemical insect repellents are effective against most pests.

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