Seed World

Year of the Delphinium

Delphiums are a favorite cut flower for many home gardeners.

Each year the National Garden Bureau selects one annual, one perennial, and one edible as their “Year of the” crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.

Delphiniums are perennial flowers that can have a single or double rosette in a wide variety of colors such as blue, red, pink, white, violet and yellow. They are hugely popular in the floral and gardening communities.
Delphiniums are native throughout the Northern Hemisphere and include approximately 300 species in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family. The name delphinium originated with the ancient Greeks, who thought the shape of the new flower bud with spur resembled that of a dolphin’s nose.
Hybridization was developed in the 19th-century by Victor Lemoine in France.

The Candle delphinium from Sakata comes in a variety of shades.
The Candle delphinium from Sakata comes in a variety of shades.

Cultivars in Production Today
The most common in commercial production today are Delphinium elatum and Pacific hybrid varieties known for their long spiky stems and two-foot long flower stems.
Thanks to new breeding techniques, bush-type delphiniums are coming to the market from crosses between Delphinium beladonna, Bellamosum, Grandilflorum and Cardinale hybrids. In the Delphinium elatum hybrids, the best known varieties are the New Zealand hybrids with strong colors and medium-sized plants. Some older and newer varieties are also available from both seed and plants which include some of the following: Pagan Purple, Royal Aspiration, New Millennium Stars, Blushing Brides, Dasante Blue, Candle, Colbalt Dreams and many more.
Delphinium Pacific hybrid varieties are slightly taller than New Millennium varieties, but very similar in growing habit as well as colors. Pacific hybrids are also referred to as Pacific Giant hybrids. The most popular varieties are Black Knight, Galahad, Blue Jay, Blue Bird and King Arthur.
New Varieties
The Delphinium Guardian, Aurora and Magic Fountain series also offer impressive colors and very controlled growth. These new breeds are beginning to replace some of the older elatum hybrids that have been on the market. Blue, purple and lavender are the most popular colors in this series.
There are three interesting and unusual delphiniums originating from tissue culture coming from Holland offering very distinctive and spectacular looks with some exciting color breakthroughs such as Red Caroline, Princess Caroline and Delft Blue.
New grandiflorum, cardinale, and nudicaule hybrids offer a bouquet of flowers instead of one large flower. Varieties of these include Diamonds Blue, Summer Nights, Summer Stars, Summer Morning and Summer Clouds.
Growing Delphiniums
Delphiniums are very easy to grow in the northern climates with very little maintenance. As a perennial, they tolerate cool northern climates and overwinter with ease as a hardy perennial in some regions.
Delphiniums act more like annuals in the southern climates. After the first flush of flowers, plants can be cut back and a second set of flowers will appear on shorter stems.
Source: National Garden Bureau