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Growing colchicums

Posted: Monday 17 September 2012
by Adam Pasco

Take your bulb, place it on a windowsill, then enjoy the flowers. With autumn-flowering colchicums, that’s all you have to do for an almost instant display.


Pink colchicum flowers

Growing instructions don’t come much simpler than this: take your bulb, place it on a windowsill, then enjoy the flowers.

With autumn-flowering colchicums at least, that’s all you have to do for an almost instant display. These popular seasonal bulbs are commonly called autumn crocuses, or naked ladies, as they produce their flowers in autumn, but don’t produce leaves until spring.

Their large bulbs are available to buy now, and you can simply place them directly on a windowsill, or group them in a bowl, and they’ll soon produce flowers. The display will last a week or two, and it’s colourful and fun.

There are several varieties of autumn crocus to choose from, including the single pink-flowered Colchicum autumnale shown here, double pink ‘Waterlily’, double white ‘Alboplenum’ and several others. Bulbs cost from about £2 each. 

Once flowering is over, plant the bulbs outside. I group mine towards the front of borders among other low-growing perennials. They send up broad green leaves during spring, which continue through early summer, before dying down. They’ll flower reliably every autumn, with bulbs gradually multiplying to create bolder displays year after year.

Several other bulbs can also be planted now to bring flowers and fragrance into your home this winter. Indoor narcissus, such as fragrant ‘Paper White’ and ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’, are ideal on windowsills and will flower within six to eight weeks. Simply plant the bulbs in pots of compost or stand them on a layer of pebbles or coloured beads in a glass bowl.

Prepared hyacinths are also a favourite. Plant the bulbs now in a pot or bowl, keep them in a cool spot and they’ll flower early in the New Year. Alternatively, stand individual bulbs in hyacinth glasses and keep the water level just below the base of the bulb.

There are several more unusual (and expensive) winter-flowering bulbs to grow in greenhouses and conservatories. Search out the forest lily (Veltheimia bracteata) and Cape cowslips or lachenalias. 

By growing a combination of the bulbs mentioned above, you’ll have cheery colour on your windowsills right through the winter.





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