A race of hardy plants widely distributed over
the northern hemisphere.
The foliage is elegantly lobed and divided and
the flowers borne in spikes on branching stems.
Delphinium elatum, reaching to a height of three to six
feet, has spurred flowers of blue, an inch or
less across and, with Delphinium cheilanthum and Delphinium formosum,
is believed to have been the main influence in
the evolution of the present-day magnificent garden
Its form belladonna is a dwarf branching plant
with florets of blue.
Delphinium cardinale, from California, has scarlet florets
on three- to four-feet stems;
Delphinium nudicaule, from the same habitat, is of similar
colour, but with partly closed florets on one-and-a-half
There are many other species.
For gardens the varieties of elatum type are most
used, and require a deep, rich, well-drained soil
in sun or partial shade, good drainage, and ample
moisture during growth.
Propagate by means of division, cuttings or seed.
The flowering season is in June and July and again
in late summer.
Delphinium – Perennial Larkspur,
Eighteen inches to ten feet.
Flowers chiefly in shades of Blue, June and July.
(For annual Delphiniums see under
The perennial Delphiniums may be divided into
tow main classes: the first consisting of what
may be called the botanical varieties (“Delphinium
species”, as the catalogues have it) such
as Delphinium Cashmerianum, a fine blue about two feet
Delphinium Chinensis, blue, eighteen inches;
Delphinium nudicaule, orange-scarlet, eighteen inches.
The last can be grown from seed without much trouble;
sow in boxes about May, prick out when large enough,
and in cold neighbourhoods or heavy soils winter
in a frame.
“Zalil” or Delphinium sulphureum (the yellow
Delphinium) formosum, bright blue, and formosum
celestinum, pale blue, may be grown in the same
The dwarf species known as the “Blue Butterfly”
or “Queen of the Blues”, may also
be considered as a bedding-plant. If sown in good
light soil about the end of March, it will form
bushes eighteen inches high, covered in July with
flowers of a very beautiful cobalt blue; with
ordinary care the plants will survive for several
The second class consists of the tall-growing
Hybrid Delphiniums which have taken such a prominent
place in perennial gardening during the last twenty
A well-known Delphinium begins to throw up its
shoots in March, and by May advances to a dome-shaped
bush of handsome deep-cut foliage, above which
rise in June and July the long spikes of close-set
flowers, single or double, in many shades and
mixtures of light and dark blue, purple and white.
The two most distinctive colours are a very dark
purple-blue and a clear bright blue which better
deserves the character “sky” than
many others which obtain it. Many of the flowers
have a black or a white centre or eye, and many
show a mixture of colours, a shading together
of crimson and blue, or violet and rose in the
same flower, with a metallic sheen peculiar to
Delphiniums will grow tolerably in almost any
soil, but to produce nine-foot spires of blue,
they require a deep and wide root-run in ground
that is rich and rather light. The root-fibres
form a dense mat and spread to a surprising distance
from the base; there must therefore be no strong
competitors or hungry shrubs within several yards
of the clumps.
Established plants should have a good top-dressing
of old manure spread round them in November, and
a sprinkling of wood ashes and soot when the shoots
first appear in March will do something to discourage
the slugs who are fatally fond of the young foliage.
If a clump sends up more than a dozen stems, the
weakest should be cut out and some seven or eight
of the stoutest left.
When these are about two feet high, they must
be secured to stakes. It is the main fault of
the hybrid Delphiniums that they are not self-supporting,
but entirely dependant on the aid of sticks and
Young plants may have one stout stake
six feet out of the ground; older clumps may need
two or three, arranged in a triangle round the
plant, which must be encircled with girths of
tar-string as its growth advances. There is room
for plenty of skill in arranging the stakes and
ties so as to be inconspicuous and yet to provide
safe anchorage in summer storms.
When the flower-spikes are over, about the middle
of July, they may be cut off, but the stems should
be allowed to stand until the autumn clearance.
The advice sometimes given that they should be
removed at once, to make the plants give a second
crop of bloom is worthless; the second growth
is a poor thing at best, and the proceeding is
most unfair to the plant and entirely false economy.
In droughty weather heavy soakings of water, a
yard or more away from the stems, will be very
beneficial. Digging or forking among the mat of
roots, under pretence of “tidying up”,
must never be allowed.
If named kinds of Delphiniums are desired, plants
must be obtained from a good hardy-plant nursery,
and put out in February. For all purposes except
those of the exhibitor and fancier, excellent
plants may be had from seed. This should be of
a really good strain.
Sow early in April in drills in fine soil, thin
out and transplant in good time into a piece of
good ground with an open exposure.
The plants should throw up small spikes the first
autumn (sufficient to show the colour and habit);
in November or February they must be put out into
their final positions.
The following summer they will make four or five
fine spikes; the next two years they will be in
After four or five years they deteriorate, and
the new stock of seedlings should be ready to
succeed the veterans.
The tall Delphiniums may be planted in groups
of three in mixed borders, or in masses in large
beds, or in long single lines or avenues as borders
to shrubberies, always provided in the latter
case that the roots of the shrubs do not impoverish
See also Larkspur