How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Larkspur Flowers
Are you thinking of adding some larkspur flowers to your home or garden this planting season? These incredibly stunning blue flowers can be the difference between a pretty garden, and a stunning garden. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton walks through everything you'll need to plant, grow, and care for larkspur flowers.
Spring is always a time for new growth, colorful beginnings, and joy. There are several spring blossoms that hold up these spring values, but none quite like the larkspur. This gorgeous cottage garden staple has striking but graceful spire-like flowers, which sit on long stems.
When the larkspur blooms in early spring, your garden will be treated with a sea of blues, reds, violets, and even whites. It is on display best when its blooms peek out from the last snow of winter, but they bring the spring spirit in warmer climates too.
This flowering annual is an easy-going plant, especially once established. They’re also drought-resistant and won’t get nibbled on by deer or rabbits. It’s also July’s birth flower, making its blooms a unique and memorable gift for someone’s birthday.
However, there are some small caveats. All parts of this beautiful flower are poisonous. One brief touch of the leaves or their stunning flowers can cause extreme skin irritation. It’s also best to refrain from eating its flowers or any other parts of this plant. The larkspur poses a danger to cats and dogs, so plant it where your pets can’t get to them.
The larkspur is also a fast grower and will happily spread across your garden if you’re not careful. With a few post-blooming maintenance tricks, however, they shouldn’t take over your garden. Other than that, the larkspur is a wonderful addition to any landscape, especially cottage gardens. You can also snip them (carefully) and add them to indoor cut flower bouquets.
- 1 Plant History
- 2 Cultivation
- 3 Propagation
- 4 Planting
- 5 How to Grow
- 6 Harvesting
- 7 Varieties and Cultivars
- 8 Pests and Diseases
- 9 Plant Uses
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions
- 11 Final Thoughts
Larkspur Plant Overview
Plant Type Annual
Species Consolida spp.
Native Areas North Africa, Europe, Asia
Hardiness Zone USDA 2-11
Season Spring to Summer
Exposure Full Sun
Maturity Date +/- 3 months
Growth Rate Moderate
Plant Spacing 12 inches
Planting Depth 1/4 inch
Plant Height 3-4 feet
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests Aphids, Slugs
Diseases Crown Rot, Powdery Mildew, Root Rot
Soil Type Well-draining
Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds
Plant With Aster, Iris, Sunflower
Don’t Plant With Full Sun Plants
The Larkspur is native to the Mediterranean, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. Gardeners introduced it to England in the mid to late 1500s, then the larkspur found a home in the Americas. Once firmly rooted, the larkspur naturalized across the continent.
Before it became a cottage garden staple, however, it was a useful plant. Despite the plant’s poisonous properties, it was used for medicinal purposes. In ancient Greece, larkspur seeds were crushed to treat and control body lice. The entire plant was also often crushed up to form a porridge-like mixture to make larkspur poultices. This gooey substance was often the main source of treatment for open wounds and hemorrhoids.
Larkspur flowers were also entrenched in Native American culture. They used its blooms to create dyes and repel insects. It also held great symbolic value, often seen as having protective properties, which safeguarded warriors and repelled ghosts, thieves, and scorpions.
This annual’s unique name was first mentioned in a gardening book in 1597. The author, John Gerard, likened its blooms to the claw of the lark bird. The resemblance is quite uncanny, so it’s no wonder this common name stuck. He also called it ‘knight’s-spur’, ‘lark’s heel’ and ‘lark’s claw.’
Gerard, like so many others today, also noticed the larkspur’s similarities to the delphinium, another spring flower. While these two belong to the Ranunculaceae family, they are considered different genera – sometimes.
The larkspur, as published in Gerard’s book, was in the Consolida genus. But the common name larkspur is often attributed to Delphiniums. The USDA saves the Consolida genus for any plants with the common name ‘knight’s-spur’. Naming and classifying plants is a confusing business, but all you need to know is that ‘knight’s-spur’ and ‘larkspur’ can refer to the same flowering annual, sometimes within the Consolida genus and sometimes under the Delphinium genus.
No matter how you classify this plant, the larkspur deserves a spot in your garden. Its ability to root itself across so many different areas with different climates makes it an extremely hardy plant. The Larkspur thrives in USDA zones 2-11, happily self-seeding every season.
Its tall blooms add a brilliant splash of spring, no matter where they’re planted. As mentioned, they make great additions to cottage gardens, but they also look right at home in wildflower gardens. Their height makes them wonderful border plants too, and they’re well-suited to growth in containers.
Larkspurs add splashes of color to empty spaces in no time. These rapid growers mature in just a few months, which can make propagating slightly challenging. The best way to propagate this spring beauty is from seed.
While this may seem easy, propagating larkspurs from seed does require some preparation and plenty of patience.
Larkspur seeds require a cold treatment, or stratification before they can germinate. This replicates the natural process that seeds go through during winter. Naturally, larkspur seeds drop in fall and overwinter in the cold, snowy ground where they happily enjoy a cold period. Once the temperatures begin to climb, then the seeds germinate.
This process is very easy to replicate. Start by gathering the seeds from pods once they’ve begun to crack and dry. Fill a tray or small container with seed starting mix and water. Press the seeds into damp soil and cover. Next, pop your seeds into the refrigerator for a week or two. During this period, keep the soil damp by spritzing it with some water.
Once their cold period is up, the larkspur seeds are ready to sow. Depending on where you live, you may need to sow your seeds indoors before transplanting them in your garden.
Gardeners in zones 2-5 will need to sow their seeds about a month before the last frost date. It’s best to use pots rather than seed trays as they develop their intricate taproot system early on. Ensure your pots have adequate drainage.
To sow your larkspur seeds, fill your chosen pots with potting mix and plant two seeds in each. Ensure the seeds are covered with about a quarter of an inch of soil. Water the soil well and maintain moisture levels until they begin to germinate. Luckily, the seeds germinate in less than a month, so the wait isn’t too tedious.
Once the seeds have sprouted two or three sets of true leaves, replant one young larkspur in its own pot. When the last frost is truly good and gone, the young larkspurs are ready for their final home.
Those living in warmer zones, from about 6-11, can happily sow their seeds outdoors. Once they’ve experienced their cold stratification, the seeds can simply be planted in the garden once the last frost has cleared.
Simply pick a sunny spot and sow two seeds in small shallow holes that are about 1 foot apart. Cover them and maintain moist soil for about a month. Like indoor sown seeds, they should germinate in a few weeks.
Those living in more temperate climates can also sow their seeds in the fall. While this may seem counterproductive, the cold weather won’t kill your young larkspur flowers. Instead, once the cold temperatures hit, they will simply slip into dormancy.
When spring rolls around, your larkspurs will shake off the winter cold by sprouting new green leaves. Come mid-spring, your garden will be filled with gorgeous larkspur flowers.
Whether you’re transplanting young larkspurs or bringing home fresh ones from the nursery, planting is easy. The best time to plant larkspurs is in spring or fall, depending on your climate. As mentioned, those living in moderate climates can happily plant their larkspurs before winter without fear.
Make sure the planting holes are wide and deep enough to accommodate the larkspur’s root ball, with a healthy 12-inch spacing. The soil should be rich in organic matter and well-draining, as larkspurs don’t like wet feet. Once planted, water deeply and thoroughly. Until they’ve taken root, continue to water frequently.
While larkspurs may seem right at home in garden beds, they’re just as breathtaking in containers on patios and balconies. When it comes to pot size, the bigger the better, so it can accommodate Larkspur’s long taproot system.
Ensure the pots have sufficient drainage and are filled with organic-rich, well-draining soil. Plant one larkspur per pot, and water thoroughly. If you are looking for some companion plants, both the Aster and the Sunflower make excellent companions both in color, and in growing needs.
How to Grow
Larkspurs are easy-going plants that don’t require a lot of fuss to flourish. Most times they’ll happily root themselves, growing and maturing quickly. However, there are still several care tips to follow and important factors to consider when growing these plants. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know when growing Larkspurs.
This striking flowering annual is a lover of the sun. The larkspur performs best when it receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day.
Larkspurs grown in extremely hot climates will appreciate some afternoon shade, especially during the summer months.
The extra sunlight has benefits beyond happy growth. It speeds up evaporation of any water left on leaves and flowers and in the soil, after rain or watering, reducing the chances of disease.
Young or freshly transplanted larkspurs will appreciate frequent watering until they become established. But once they’re happy in their new home larkspurs will thrive on little water. Mature plants are drought tolerant thanks to their long taproots.
These taproots reach deeper layers of the soil, where water can’t evaporate easily. Larkspurs will continue to thrive, even when the topmost layers of soil are bone dry.
Only water your larkspurs when the top layer of soil is dry. You can simply give it a feel, and if the soil is still moist, hold off on watering for a few days.
For the health of your larkspurs and the rest of your garden, it’s best to practice good watering methods. Water your plants in the morning and only when the soil is dry. This prevents the soil from becoming soggy and allows for excess water to evaporate throughout the day. It’s also best to avoid overhead watering as this method facilitates the growth and spread of disease.
For the best results, water your plants slowly but deeply, allowing the water to reach even the deepest layers of soil.
Getting the soil right is important when it comes to larkspurs. They require a well-draining, organic-rich, and loose soil to flourish. They aren’t fussy about the soil’s pH levels, but a range of slightly acidic to neutral is optimal.
If you have poor quality soil that either lacks nutrients or is heavy clay, there are ways to fix the problem. You can plant your larkspurs in raised beds to help facilitate drainage, or you can easily amend your soil. Coconut husk or river sand, are great additions to the soil as they improve drainage and aeration.
You can also incorporate plenty of organic matter, like compost, into your soil to make it more organically rich.
Climate and Temperature
As annuals, Larkspurs are hardy in USDA zones 2-11, flourishing in a wide variety of regions. Adding to their charm is their lack of preference for specific climates, like other plants. Larkspurs have no specific temperature or humidity needs. They’re happy in cool or hot weather as long as they get sufficient sunlight and the right amount of water.
Larkspurs growing in extremely hot environments will appreciate some afternoon shade and may need water more frequently.
Larkspurs will readily treat your garden to their stunning springtime blooms without a helping hand. This is especially the case if its soil needs are met. However, they can occasionally use a helping hand during the growing season so they can put on their very best display.
During spring, apply a flower-specific or balanced fertilizer to your larkspurs every month. This will encourage bigger and better blooms, without taking too much energy away from the rest of the plant.
Larkspurs are exceptionally easy-going plants that don’t require much fuss to put on their annual colorful spring show. But, these beautiful blooms can become heavy, putting strain on their long stems. If you spot drooping stalks, simply stake it. Be careful when driving the stake into the soil, as to not disturb the roots.
With the right amount of sun and water, along with the correct soil, this stunning plant will grow, bloom, and spread quickly. This makes it seem like it doesn’t need much maintenance.
However, its ability to grow and spread rapidly calls for some extra care. While not classified as an invasive species, larkspurs can become overwhelming. They can quickly take over your garden when reseeding each year.
It’s best to prune away any spent flowers throughout the blooming season. This also encourages the stalks to produce a second round of blooms.
Once spring has come to an end, it’s best to deadhead all your larkspurs. Using sharp, clean shears, cut the stems to the ground. This post-bloom maintenance prevents any seedpods from popping open and spreading seeds across your landscape.
As mentioned, larkspurs are toxic plants, so exercise caution when pruning and deadheading them. Simply touching any part of this plant can cause skin irritation, so wear your favorite gardening gloves when managing and maintaining your larkspurs.
While these plants are not edible, toxic to humans and some animals, you may want to harvest their seeds for propagation.
The right time to begin gathering seeds is near the end of the flowering season, which is normally late summer. As the temperatures begin to dip, the larkspur flowers die back, leaving seedpods behind. These pods are tubular and green.
As summer continues, these seedpods begin to dry and crack, creating a crevice at the very top. Eventually, the entire pod will crack open, scattering tiny larkspur seeds across your garden. It’s best to pick the pods before they crack open completely, so you can gather as many seeds as possible and control their spread.
Nip your chosen seedpods from the strongest plants, and crack them open over a container to catch any escaping seeds. Once you’ve got your seeds, you can begin sowing them as per the instructions above.
Remember to wear gloves when snipping off the seed pods.
It’s also important to note that your propagated seeds may not produce the same larkspur as what’s currently growing in your garden. But don’t let that stop you from expanding your larkspur collection.
Varieties and Cultivars
When it comes to larkspur varieties and cultivars, gardeners are spoilt for choice. Whether you’re a lover of blue flowers, pinks or whites, or a combination of colors, there is a larkspur out there for you.
For those who love a mixture of bright colors, then ‘Cloudy Skies’ is perfect. Part of the Consolida regalis species, they boast pretty blooms that come in a mixture of purple, blue, and white hues. Sometimes they even sport silvery flowers, creating a truly mystical, sky-like spectacle.
Fans of monochromatic color schemes are accommodated too. The ‘Blue Bell’ larkspur has stunning light blue blooms that resemble a spring sky. The spires of the ‘Blue Bell’ can also grow to about four feet high.
Other stunning cultivars to look out for, including the ‘Imperial’ and ‘Sublime’, both of which sport flowers in a range of spring colors.
Pests and Diseases
These easy-going, fast-growing plants are generally worry-free, only needing heavy maintenance at the end of the season. Larkspurs are also drought and deer-resistant. However, there are a few diseases and pests to look out for that are usually easy to prevent and manage.
As with most flowering plants, the stunning spired flowers tend to attract aphids and slugs. These pests aren’t generally problematic and are usually easy to control, but they can wreak havoc on your plants if left unchecked.
Slugs can simply be picked from your larkspurs and moved somewhere else. You’ll often find them lurking near the plants just after dark. Grab a torch, gloves, and a bucket, and head out into the flower bed.
There are also ways to keep slugs off your plants. Luckily, they’re inexpensive and easy. Simply, place a plate or shallow bowl filled with beer at the base of your larkspurs. They’ll go for that instead of your prized blooms. Commercial snail and slug traps are just as effective.
If you haven’t dealt with aphids before, you might have to if you’ve got larkspurs. These pests seem to love every plant, no matter their species. You’ll often find them hiding under leaves and letting their colonies spread rampantly. Aphids can be easy to manage if you follow these few tricks.
Make checking the underside of leaves and flowers part of your daily gardening routine. If you spot any, simply pick them off and pinch them between your fingers. You can also drop them into a bucket or jar of soapy water.
Bigger aphid infestations may call for something stronger. Neem oil, and a handful of other horticultural sprays, are a great natural pesticide for aphids. However, they can deter beneficial insects like butterflies and bees.
You can also introduce ladybugs into your garden to prey on aphids. You can do this artificially or by planting ladybug-attracting plants, like marigolds.
Larkspurs are usually disease resistant, but they are prone to root and crown rot, as well as powdery mildew. These issues usually take root when larkspurs are overwatered or planted with too little spacing between plants or in the incorrect soil.
The best way to deal with and prevent these diseases is by improving air circulation between plants and changing watering habits. Leaves and stems infected with powdery mildew should be pruned away and destroyed.
No matter the kind of larkspur, these striking blooms add a splash of spring joy to any landscape. They generally create a picture-perfect spectacle when planted in cottage and wildflower gardens. Larkspur’s height allows them to be planted in mixed borders with a variety of plants.
Larkspurs look their best when planted with other color-popping flowers like poppies, irises, and sunflowers. These striking flowers shouldn’t be contained to beds, however. They can flourish in pots, opening up a variety of landscaping designs.
Larkspurs are also wonderful cut flowers, allowing you to add them to bouquets, perfect for your home or as a gift.
Frequently Asked Questions
What conditions do larkspur like?
As an annual, Larkspurs grow best in USDA zones 2-11. This wide range of climates makes the larkspur a versatile plant that can thrive in many conditions.
They prefer full sun but will appreciate afternoon shade in extremely hot climates. Larkspurs don’t enjoy soggy soil, preferring little water and well-draining, organic-rich soil.
What does a larkspur flower symbolize?
The larkspur flower has had many symbolic meanings throughout history.
In Native American culture, it’s seen to have protective properties, which can ward off thieves, ghosts, and scorpions, along with safeguarding loved ones.
In western culture, the larkspur is generally associated with romance, symbolizing an open heart. It also symbolizes fun and lightheartedness. Different colors also symbolize different things. For example, white symbolizes happy-go-lucky moods, while pink is linked to fickleness.
The larkspur is also the July birth flower, making it a great gift for a July baby.
Is the larkspur invasive?
The Larkspur isn’t classified as an invasive species, but they do reseed readily and can quickly spread across your landscape. If left unattended, you may have to pull out unwanted larkspur shoots the following year.
The best way to manage larkspurs is by deadheading them at the end of every season.
Larkspurs are the ultimate spring plant. Their stunning, spired blooms come in a plethora of spring colors, bringing joy and brightness to any space. These special plants are also extremely easy to care for and can thrive in a variety of climates. These versatile plants look best in cottage and wildflower landscapes, but they create a striking spectacle no matter where they’re planted.