Delphiniums (Delphinium): description, types and varieties

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Delphinium (Delphinium) – a genus of annual and perennial flowering herbaceous plants of the ranunculaceae family (Ranunculaceae), growing throughout the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, some species – in the mountainous regions of tropical Africa. One of the most popular outdoor ornamental plants.

  • Family: buttercup.
  • Homeland: for the most part – China and Southeast Asia.
  • Rhizome: racemose, tuberous, or stemroot.
  • Stem: straight.
  • Leaves: palmately divided, dissected.
  • Fruit: leaflet.
  • Reproductive ability: propagated by seeds, cuttings and division of bushes.
  • Light exposure : prefers the sun.
  • Watering: Relatively drought tolerant.
  • Content temperature: frost-resistant.
  • Flowering duration: annual – July-September, perennial – 20-30 days in early summer.

Description of delphiniums

The genus includes about 370 annual and perennial species, very diverse in appearance and structure. The height of the stems varies from 10 cm in the inhabitants of alpine meadows to 3 m in forest species.

The structure of the leaves is three, five or seven-parted, sometimes repeatedly pinnatipartite, with separate petiole lobes. The segments have serrated or serrate edges, wedge-shaped or rhombic shape. The leaf blades are often slightly pubescent, in cultivated varieties at the beginning of growth they have a variety of colors, by which the color of the inflorescences is judged.

So, brown and reddish leaves are found in flowers of dark shades, green – in light purple, white and blue varieties. The number of leaves per stem is determined by both the species and growing conditions. On poor soils, cultivars form inflorescences after 10-15 leaves, on well-fertilized soils – after 30-35 leaves.

Most species, including cultivated ones, have a racemose rhizome, characterized by the absence of the main and the presence of numerous adventitious roots. In conditions of lack of moisture, the rhizome can transform into a stem root, which has a powerful central root that goes deep into the soil. Some varieties that live in arid regions have rhizomes in the form of tubers of various shapes, ranging in size from 0.5 to 4 cm. Such plants bloom in the spring, and with the onset of the dry period, they go dormant until the fall or spring of the next year.

Delphinium in the photo

The delphinium flower is simple, with five colored sepals, on the top there is a spur called an eye, with two nectaries and small petals – staminodes of a contrasting color. Such a structure is adapted for pollination by bumblebees or, in several American species, by hummingbirds. The color of the petals can be different, but most species are characterized by a blue or purple tone. Delphinium flowers form a simple paniculate (3-15 pieces each) or a complex pyramidal (50-80 pieces each) inflorescence in the form of a simple or branched brush.

Some wild-growing species have a bright peculiar aroma, white delphiniums smell more intensely.

The fruit in the form of a leaflet contains small, up to 700 pcs. in 1 g, seeds, the germination of which lasts three to four, and when stored in the refrigerator – an unlimited number of years.

All parts of the delphinium contain alkaloids that depress the central nervous system, affecting the heart and gastrointestinal tract. Plants, including garden forms, are poisonous, cases of poisoning of animals, bees by them are known, poison is contained even in honey collected from them. In medicine, both folk and official, the use of delphiniums is very limited, although a number of drugs are made from them that have a curare-like effect, have an antimicrobial and analgesic effect.

Origin of the name and classification of delphiniums

The Latin name of the flower delphinium is accepted in floriculture all over the world, although the term larkspur is more common in Russian scientific literature. The origin of the Latin name is associated with the similarity of the shape of the bud with the structure of the body of a dolphin, according to another version – with the Greek city of Delphi, where the plants were common. The Russian version, larkspur, reflects its use in the practice of traditional methods of treating fractures. There is another, outdated name – spur, given for the characteristic features of the structure of the flower.

The genus includes annuals and perennials. Approximately 40 species are classified as annual delphiniums, of which two are grown in decorative floriculture: field and Ajax.

Wild delphinium in the photo

Perennial delphiniums, in turn, are divided by place of growth into Eurasian, American and African.

Hybrid delphiniums are distinguished into a separate group; it includes the vast majority of varieties grown in gardens.

Below are descriptions and photos of delphiniums of some decorative species and varieties, grouped in accordance with the above division.

Common ornamental annual species

Delphinium field (D. Consolida) , a bush up to 2 m high with twice or thrice dissected leaves and loose inflorescences up to 30 cm long. It has been grown in gardens since 1572. There are garden forms of different colors, grown mainly for cutting. Spectacular blue flowers with a white center of Frosted Sky, dark blue Qis Dark Blue and pale pink Qis Rose.

Delphinium Ajax, or garden (D. ajacis) , an annual hybrid, the result of crossing species is doubtful and oriental. Height from 20 to 100 cm, tap root, strongly dissected leaves, flowers up to 5 cm in diameter. Blooms from early summer to autumn. It has been used in culture for several centuries, has many varieties and garden forms, including tall, up to 1 m, double delphiniums with dense inflorescences of hyacinth-like flowers, and dwarf plants, not higher than 30 cm. The latter include Dwarf Hyacinth-flowered cultivars with double pink, crimson, white and purple flowers.

Popular varieties:

Russian size;

Tall Rocket;

Messenger White.

Blue, pink, blue delphinium varieties:


delphinium astolat.

The largest number of species is included in the Eurasian group, some are used in decorative floriculture.

Among them:

Delphinium high (D. elatum L) , a native of the northern mountains of Europe, Siberia and Mongolia, up to 1.5 m high with bare or slightly pubescent stems, and blue flowers collected in sparse brushes. In culture since 1578, often used to create hybrids. There is a giant form up to 3 m high.

Delphinium labiate (D. cheilanthum Fischer) , another plant of northern origin, which is the progenitor of cultivars. Height is from 45 to 95 cm, the stems are bare, the leaves are green above, gray below, densely pubescent. Blue flowers form a simple brush.

Delphinium large-flowered or Chinese (D. grandiflorum L., D. chinensis) , grows in Eastern Siberia, Korea, China, Mongolia. The plant has straight, often branched stems from 20 to 50-80 cm high, with white pubescence, leaves tripartitely divided into narrow lobes and large bright blue, sometimes white or pink flowers. Simple and terry forms are grown in gardens, the undersized, up to 30 cm, Blauer Zwerg variety is popular.

In rocky gardens, undersized delphiniums are used:

blue (D. glaucum) , not higher than 40 cm, with large flowers cornflower blue with a black eye, non-hardy, but easily renewed by self-sowing;

cashmere (D. cashmerianum) , light purple with a black eye, 20-40 cm tall, with garden forms of various colors;

short-spurred (D. brachycentrum Ledeb) , 15-30 cm high, with dense adpressed pubescence and a few large blue flowers.

Of the American species, we note:

red delphiniums (D. cardinale) ;

hollow stem (D. nudicaule) with fairly large scarlet-red flowers, in the middle lane for the winter they are to be dug up and transplanted into pots.

The large-spurred delphinium (D. macrocentrum Oliv.) with semi-closed blue-green flowers, cultivated in England and Sweden, belongs to the group of African species.

Hybrid groups and common varieties

Hybrid delphiniums include all varieties obtained by crossing different representatives of the genus. They are grouped into two types:

Delphinium Belladonna (D. belladonna Bergmans) , varieties that appeared in the 19th century, hybrids of large-flowered and labial species. They are characterized by low (up to 1.5 m) growth, deeply dissected leaves and branched paniculate inflorescences with simple, non-double flowers. Most of the varieties included in the group are blue and blue delphiniums (Piccolo, Capri, Arnold Becklin),

Some are white delphiniums:

Connecticut Junkies;



Delphinium cultural (Delphinium cultorum Voss) , includes other varieties bred by hybridization of tall, large-flowered, Barlow delphiniums. These are plants with a height of 20 to 150 cm with simple, semi-double and double flowers of various colors, collected in pyramidal brushes. The following groups of hybrids are distinguished:

Pacific (Pacific) , 12 known varieties created by the American Reyneld in 1934-1940, are distinguished by a powerful, up to 2 m, leafy bush and dense pyramidal inflorescences up to 1 m long with semi-double large flowers. Seedlings transmit the hereditary characteristics of their parents, which at one time contributed to the rapid spread of culture in ornamental gardens. Under the conditions of the middle zone, delphiniums are not winter-hardy enough, they are used as biennials. Popular delphiniums:


Genevieve with pink flowers;

purple King Arthur and Black Knight;

white delphinium Galahad and others.

New Zealand delphiniums , bred in modern times by New Zealand breeder Ted Dowdswell. One of the most modern and popular groups of F1 hybrids with very large double and semi-double flowers collected in dense brushes, frost-resistant and durable. Varieties of delphiniums of this group:

white Innocence;

Double Innocence (terry);

pink `Blushing Brides, `Sweethearts and Dusky Maidens;

blue Royal Aspirations, `Blue Lace, Pagan Purples and others.

Marfinsky , created by the breeder Malyutin in the village of Marfino, Moscow Region, adapted to the conditions of the middle zone, have strong stems up to 2 m high, dense inflorescences with large semi-double flowers. Common varieties of pale pink delphiniums:

Pink sunset;

Blue Venus;

Blue lace;

White – Daughter of winter;

Violet – Morpheus.

Elatum, a group of hybrid varieties of high delphinium, among them blue delphiniums:




Blue Amethyst;



White – Lady Belinda.

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