Time to order your colchicum
Colchicum autumnale. Photo: Grin, Wikimedia Commons

Colchicum (often falsely called autumn crocus, which is a very different bulb) are beautiful autumn-flowering bulbs. And they’re very hardy, from USDA hardiness zones 4 to 10, even zone 3 if the sector enjoys good snow cover.

The spectacular flowers do indeed resemble giant crocuses, although they belong to their own botanical family, the Colchicaceae. (Crocuses belong to the Iridaceae family.)

Instant Satisfaction!

Double flowering pink colchicum
Colchicum ‘Waterlily’, one of the rare double-flowering colchicums. Photo: Yuriy75, Wikimedia Commons

Curiously, most colchicums flower in the fall, emerging from the ground without foliage, thus creating a particularly stunning effect.

Colchicum foliage in spring.
Colchicum foliage appears in the spring, months after the plants bloomed! Photo: ibulb.com

The leaves only appear the following spring, at the same time as the leaves of other hardy bulbs. Then they disappear in the summer.

large colony of Colchicum pannonicum.
Over time, one bulb becomes two,, then five, then many. This is Colchicum pannonicum. Photo: ibulb.com

No particular care is needed. Just plant them in sun or partial shade in well drained soil and let them grow. Over time, the colony will multiply and you can divide them to fill your flowerbeds with more of these beautiful flowers.

Colchicums: Easy to Grow, Somewhat Harder to Find

Colchicums blooming without being planted, on a windowsill.
Plant your colchicums as soon as you get them or they will flower without even being planted. Photo: flowerbulbs.com

You won’t find colchicums in most garden centers, however, as they haven’t the faintest idea how to handle these bulbs. You see, you need to plant colchicums almost as soon as they arrive in the store, either that, or keep them in cold storage, otherwise the start to bloom on the shelf. Yes, they’ll bloom with no soil at all! So essentially, colchicums only have a shelf life of a week or so. After that, they’ll start to bloom, all on their own!

My local garden center ordered some once and just put them out on display at room temperature with the other bulbs. While they had from September to November to sell their tulips and narcissus bulbs, the two-week window they had to sell colchicum bulbs wasn’t enough and most remained unsold. Nothing looks less appetizing than a cochicum bulb (corm) shrinking after it has bloomed!

As a result of that experience, they never offered colchicums again.

Mail Ordering Colchicums is the Way to Go

Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’ with white flowers.
Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’. Photo: ibulb.com

The logical way of obtaining colchium bulbs is to order them by mail. Bulb growers know just when to ship them. They’ll mail them to you at just the right time so you can plant them and watch them bloom only a week or so later.

In the US, try such sources as Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, White Flower Farm or McClure & Zimmerman. Canadians can order from Phoenix Perennials (a huge choice!),  Fraser’s Thimble Farms or Botanus.

Gardeners from other countries: check the Internet for a bulb source near you.

Poison symbol

Don’t Eat ‘Em

Colchicums are poisonous, so don’t eat them. But then, don’t eat any plant unless you know it safe to eat. Even tomato, potato and rhubarb plants can poison you if you eat the wrong part.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “Time to Order Colchicums

  1. Pingback: Precious Spice From Your Own Crocus  - Laidback Gardener

  2. One of our garden centers always offers Colchicums but they rarely do well once planted possibly because they have not been treated to correctly. Will try again through mail order.

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