986 Consolida ajacisCommon Names: larkspur, rocket larkspur, annual delphinium, annual larkspur Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercup or crowfoot Family)
The annual larkspurs 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, most of which are perennial. The leaves are bright green and finely dissected - feathery, even. 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. Technically, there are five sepals, four of which look like petals; the fifth is the spur. There are two upper petals that are fused, appearing as one. There are dozens of named cultivars, many being products of hybridization between closely related species. Among these are strains that produce flowers all of a single color, and some that produce plants with different colored flowers. 'Dwarf Rocket' and 'Dwarf Hyacinth' are short, growing 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) tall, with flowers in pink, blue and white. Plants of the 'Imperial Series' are larger growing 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall and branching, they are available in single colors.
The annual larkspurs come originally from southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.
CultureLight: Larkspurs thrive in full sun. Moisture: Provide larkspurs with supplemental water during dry spells. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 11. In the South annual larkspurs bloom in early spring, then wither as the summer heat takes over. In the North they may bloom most of the growing season. Propagation: Larkspurs self sow readily, and are easy to germinate from fresh or stored seed. Sow seeds where they are to be grown in fall or early spring, while it is still cool.
Unlike the perennial delphiniums, the annual larkspurs do not require staking. They bloom earlier and they are much easier to grow than the towering delphiniums of English gardens. Annual larkspurs are best suited for flower beds and borders where they may self sow year after year. Here in North Florida, we grow them (or should I say we allow them to do as they please?) in the vegetable garden where they pop up reliably every spring amongst the last of the winter vegetables and the beginnings of the beans, tomatoes and peppers. These larkspurs, in white, blue and pink, are positively excellent as cut flowers. And, the hummingbirds love them, too!
The true delphiniums (genus Delphinium) include about 300 species of perennials, biennials and annuals from temperate Asia, Europe and America. There are numerous species in cultivation, usually referred to as "botanical" delphiniums, as well as cultivars derived from hybridization and selection. The cultivars are classified into groups: Delphiniums in the Belladonna Group are 3-4 ft tall branching perennials with loose clusters of florets on the spikes; those in the Elatum Group are clump forming perennials with truly spectacular floral displays consisting of tightly packed florets on six-foot-tall spikes; those in the Pacific hybrid group are annuals.
Larkspur leaves and flowers can cause stomach distress if ingested, and sensitive people may get a rash from contact with the foliage. The seeds are poisonous. The foliage is said to be poisonous to cattle.
Steve Christman 1/28/04