Just when the summer garden begins to take on a bedraggled appearance, colchicum’s nearly perfect cup-shape flowers unfurl. They draw instant interest, making the rest of the lackluster summer garden fade into the landscape. Plant colchicum for the joy of seeing fresh flowers at the end of a long, hot summer. Or, plant it to remind yourself where the spring-blooming bulbs are planted; they’ll have died back before colchicum’s flowers appear in the fall. Its foliage, on the other hand, emerges in early spring, yellows, and fades back by July.
Fall Garden Partners
Ring in fall with a riot of color by pairing low-growing colchicum (sometimes called autumn crocus) with other fall-flowering perennials like aster, Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), sedum, and turtlehead (Cheloneobliqua). Dahlias (which are tuberous rooted perennials) also kick into high gear at the end of summer. Remember, colchicum grows just 6 to 12 inches tall, so plant it near the front of a garden where you'll be sure to notice its cheerful blossoms.
Colchicum Care Must-Knows
Colchicum grows best in rich, well-drained soil and partial shade or full sun. In Zones 6 and above, choose a part-shade planting location for best growth. This plant grows from large, heavy corms. Because of their size, they are expensive compared to many spring-blooming bulbs. But they multiply reliably return year after year and are pest-proof—making the investment well worth the money.
Corms should be large, heavy, and free of mold or moisture when you purchase them. In early fall plant the corms 3 to 4 inches deep, orienting them so the pointed side is up. Cover them with garden soil and water well.
This plant sends up large, hostalike leaves in spring that produce nutrients for the bulb. In early to mid-summer the foliage turns yellow and fades into the garden. In early fall colchicum sends up naked stems from which lavender-pink to lilac-pink flowers unfurl (one per stem). Water colchicum in early spring when foliage is actively growing, and again in fall when the stem is elongating and flowers are blooming.
More Varieties of Colchicum
Colchicum bornmuelleri produces clusters of purple-pink flowers in early to midautumn. It grows 6 inches tall. Zones 4-9
This purple beauty bursts into bloom in September with large rosy-purple flowers. It sends up large, broad leaves in early spring and grows 8 inches tall. Zones 4-9
Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum' bears clusters of double white in autumn. It grows 6 inches tall. Zones 4-9
This Colchicum cultivar offers large rosy-lilac flowers with a white center in fall. It's one of the largest, growing as much as 10 inches tall. Zones 5-9
Colchicum 'Waterlily' is one of the showiest varieties with clusters of double-pink flowers in fall. It grows 5 inches tall. Zones 4-9