She has made herself rare in the wild. The enchanting checkered flower is becoming increasingly rare in wet meadows, along bodies of water or along biotopes. Bring the distinctive flower beauty into your own green kingdom, it will thank you with colorful bell-shaped flowers from March to May. No viewer can escape their unique, purple and white checkerboard pattern. The Fritillaria meleagris puts a particularly glamorous performance on the garden parquet in groups. Once planted, the bulb flower repeats the spectacle every year without being particularly demanding. Find out all the important aspects for the successful care of the checkerboard flower here.


  • Plant family Liliaceae
  • Name of the species: Chess flower (Fritillaria meleagris)
  • Perennial flower with a round bulb as an outlasting organ
  • Natural occurrence in European wetlands
  • Growth height 20 to 30 cm
  • Rounded stem with few linear leaves
  • Early flowering from March to May
  • Nodding bell-shaped flowers with a chessboard pattern
  • Toxic in all parts, especially the bulb
  • Other names: checkered flower, lapwing egg

The chess flower is considered endangered in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Therefore, it falls under the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. The impending extinction is due to the continued destruction of their natural habitats on wet meadows, in flood plains and along rivers and streams. With every checkerboard flower that finds its way into the hobby garden, a valuable contribution is made to the preservation of biodiversity.

watering and fertilizing

The natural distribution area already indicates that water plays a central role in the care of a chess flower. In terms of nutrient supply, it proves to be comparatively frugal as long as it is offered a sufficiently nutritious soil.

  • Keep checkered flower constantly moist
  • In waterlogging, the bulb is threatened by rot
  • Fertilize the bed with compost every four weeks from March to May
  • Give liquid fertilizer for flowering plants in the tub every 14 days

A little finesse is therefore required when watering chess flowers. The flower beauties are definitely thirsty. At the same time, the irrigation water must not accumulate permanently in the onion area. If you pay attention to this fact when planting by choosing an adequate location with high permeability, you can effectively prevent any care problems in good time.

To cut

When the flowering period comes to an end in May, the withered Fritillaria meleagris no longer make a particularly decorative picture. The withered bell flowers can now be cleaned out if you do not want to harvest the capsule fruits or if you want to sow them yourself. Otherwise, wait until they are ripe before cutting off the flowers.
The stalk with the leaves should remain in the bed until all parts have turned yellow. The checkered flower takes the time to draw important nutrients from the above-ground parts of the plant into the bulb. In this way, the flower creates an energy depot for a vital start to the next season. When this process is visibly complete, cut off the stem close to the ground.


The filigree habit hardly suggests it; in fact, the checkerboard flower is impressively hardy and hardy. Temperatures down to -30 degrees Celsius do not affect their survival organ in the soil. A separate winter protection is therefore not necessary. If you prefer to be on the safe side, cover the planting site with a layer of leaves, straw or brushwood. It is also feasible to lift the tuber out of the substrate and let it hibernate in a cool basement in a protective cover of peat dust. Irrespective of all frost hardness, a Fritillaria meleagris is endangered by drought under certain weather conditions in winter. If the thermometer falls extremely into the minus range, while at the same time there is no snow, the meteorologists speak of cold frost. The plant cannot get a drop of water from the frozen ground. The vital snow cover as a moisturizer is missing. That is why the experienced hobby gardener reaches for the watering can even in winter:

  • Water the chess flower on frost-free days
  • The irrigation water must not be heated under any circumstances

Chessboard flowers in the planter should not be exposed to constant temperature changes that cause them to freeze and thaw again. Therefore, a cool, dark winter quarters is highly recommended.


If you want more specimens in your garden, the chess flower offers two different methods of propagation. First and foremost, the increase in scales comes into question, which can be realized even with an inexperienced hand. In contrast, the sowing of harvested seeds poses a high hurdle simply because they are cold germs. Without stratification, the seed can hardly be induced to germinate. Stratification means applying a 4-6 week cold pulse to the seeds to simulate the natural change of seasons.

scale proliferation

The scaly composition of the bulbs is typical of all lily plants. This setup is excellent for vegetative propagation. As soon as the leaves have dried up in late summer, start the procedure.

  • Dig up the onion and peel off no more than six of the outer scales
  • Dust the wounds with charcoal powder to seal them
  • Put half the scales in small pots in potting soil or peat sand
  • Replant the mother onion in its previous location

Place the growing pots with the scales at 20 degrees Celsius in a semi-shady window seat that is not in full sun or in a greenhouse. If you put a transparent bag over each container, the humid and warm microclimate promotes further growth. A base made of Styrofoam or another insulating material prevents cold bridges from forming on the windowsill. Over the next few months, keep the offspring constantly wet.

After the onion scales have produced roots and possibly small daughter bulbs, carefully transplant each specimen into its own small pot. Only the tip should be visible. A temperature of 5 degrees Celsius is now sufficient for further progress. The young checkered flowers can spend the spring and summer on the balcony while they thrive. Grooming is all about regular watering and a dose of diluted liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks. By August Fritillaria meleagris had developed so vigorously that they were planted in beds or pots.


As seeds, you can either use seeds you have collected yourself or buy them from specialist shops. The seeds are naturally sprout-inhibited so that they do not start growing prematurely in the fall. This inhibition threshold is only overcome when the seeds experience a cold spell. Here’s how to do it:

  • Fill a plastic bag with damp sand and the seeds
  • Store tightly closed in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator
  • Check for germination repeatedly over the next 4-6 weeks
  • The sand must not dry out during this time

After the cold stimulus, sow the seeds in common seed soil, coconut fibre, perlite or peat sand. Since they are also dark germs, cover the chess flower seeds thinly with the substrate and moisten it. Cover the seed pot with cling film or place it in the mini greenhouse. At 18 to 20 degrees Celsius, at least half of the seeds should germinate. Prick out after the appearance of the second or third pair of leaves in individual 8 cm pots with nutrient-poor substrate.

Note: After the cold phase, allow the seeds to sit in a dark cellar at 10 to 12 degrees for a week so that they gradually get used to higher temperatures.

Planting time is in August

A typical feature of Fritillaria meleagris is the hesitant root growth. Unlike the vast majority of other bulbs, the lily family has a hard time with it. If you give the plants a sufficiently generous amount of time to grow before winter, the problem will never surface. The warm soil in August is therefore ideal for self-cultivated or ready-bought chess flower bulbs.


The colloquial name Kiebitz-Ei is based on the small bird that prefers to hatch its spotted eggs in the high grass of damp meadows. The vernacular could not have chosen the title more aptly, because it is precisely in such places that the flowers thrive particularly magnificently.

  • Sunny to partially shaded position
  • Nutrient-rich, humus-rich soil, fresh and moist
  • Low in lime to slightly acidic
  • Well-drained, without long-lasting waterlogging

The checkerboard flower is therefore recommended as decorative pond planting, along a sun-drenched stream or in the lawn, as long as the soil is not too sandy and dry.

Tip: The checkered flower primarily sets beautiful accents in small groups if a small distance is maintained to the other plants.

Plant correctly in the bed

Damit die Fritillaria meleagris zügig anwächst, wird das Beet entsprechend vorbereitet. Nachdem die Fläche gründlich gejätet und aufgelockert wurde, arbeiten Sie eine reichlich bemessene Portion gesiebten Kompost ins Erdreich ein. Sinnvoll ist eine ergänzende Gabe von Hornspänen oder Guano. Die Blumenzwiebeln sollten so frisch wie möglich verwendet werden, da sie an der Luft sehr schnell austrocknen. Da der Durchmesser einer Zwiebel mit maximal 2 Zentimetern vergleichsweise kleine ist, beträgt die Pflanztiefe um 8 Zentimeter. Zur Gewährleistung einer ausreichenden Durchlässigkeit, füllen Sie an der Sohle des Pflanzlochs eine dünne Schicht Sand ein. Gröberes Material, wie es als Drainage bei anderen Pflanzen verwendet wird, ist hier ungeeignet.

  • Die Blumenzwiebel mit der Knospe nach oben einsetzen
  • Fill the planting hole with soil, press down and water

Special protection against voles is not relevant for chess flowers. The unpleasant smell of the onions keeps the pests from attacking.

Plants in the flowerpot

The checkered flower is also a welcome spring guest on the balcony and terrace. As a small group in a tub or together with other lily plants in a flower box, the delicate flower bells serve as decorative design components in sunny to partially shaded places. Planting is also pleasantly easy here:

  • Create drainage in the bottom opening of the planter
  • Cover with an air and water permeable fleece to prevent clogging
  • Good compost-based potting soil is suitable as a substrate
  • Plant bulbs no deeper than 8 centimetres

Don’t forget to leave a small pouring edge. Ideally, use collected rainwater for the water supply, as checkerboard flowers prefer a slightly acidic environment.

Beautiful varieties

The chess flower impresses in beautiful varieties that are not limited to the purple coloration of the wild varieties. If you prefer a colorful mix within the group planting, use the following varieties of chess flowers:

Checkerboard flower ‘Alba’ (Fritillaria meleagris ‘Alba’)
With pure white flowers, this hybrid creates a wonderful contrast to the rich purple of the pure species. The cultivation has turned out to be remarkably vigorous, so that it spreads diligently without any further action, without becoming invasive to develop.

  • Growth height up to 30 cm
  • Large flower bells over narrow leaves

Checkerboard flower ‘Artemis’ (Fritillaria meleagris ‘Artemis’)
With black and purple diced flowers, ‘Artemis’ adds drama to the visual appearance. Plant this variety in small tuffs with 3 to 10 flowers so that the decorative effect can develop perfectly.

  • Growth height 20 to 30 cm
  • Striking checkered flower pattern

Checkerboard flower ‘Poseidon’ (Fritillaria meleagris ‘Poseidon’)
Anyone who prefers a more subtle color scheme is well advised to choose this variety. Overall, ‘Poseidon’ tends towards pink purple, with the checkerboard pattern being recognizable but receding into the background.

  • Growth height 15 cm to 20 cm
  • For the unobtrusive design style

In general, the checkered flower would like to have its peace in the bed. Regardless of this, anyone who would like to have a planting partner at their side will make a good choice with the snowdrop (Leucojum vernum) as well as with the snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis).

An ideal candidate for extravagant garden design comes as a chess flower. With its conspicuously diced, purple-white bell-shaped flowers, the perennial onion flower preferably adorns sunny, moist locations. At the garden pond or in the lawn, it provides eye-catching accents when it attracts attention with its distinctive nodding flowers from March/April. They also like to fulfill this task in pots or flower boxes on the balcony and terrace. In view of the poison content in all parts of the plant, the Fritillaria meleagris is not suitable for gardens with playing children.

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