Autumn crocuses (Colchicum spp.) look like spring crocuses but are actually members of the lily family. They most commonly bloom in autumn, with flowers ranging in colour from purple to the palest of pink and even pure white. They look good naturalised in grass, beneath trees, or at the front of borders. The flowers come up without any leaves which gives them their other common name of ‘naked ladies’.


Watch as Monty Don explains how and when autumn crocus flower, in this clip from BBC Gardeners' World:

All parts of the autumn crocus plant are poisonous, so wear gloves when handling the bulbs.

How to grow autumn crocus

Grow autumn crocus in moist but well-drained soil in dappled shade. Plant the corms in August for flowers in September and October. There's no need to prune autumn crocus, simply let them die down naturally. Propagate from offsets in summer.

Where to grow autumn crocus

Pale purple autumn crocus flowers
Pale purple autumn crocus flowers

Plant autumn crocus in well-drained soil in dappled shade under trees or in grass. Autumn crocus can be planted in pots but they have less chance of coming back the following year than those growing in the ground. For best results, grow autumn crocus in large pots, which enables them to be planted at the ideal planting depth of 8-10cm.

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How to plant autumn crocus

Planting autumn crocus corms in well-drained soil
Planting autumn crocus corms in well-drained soil

Plant autumn crocus corms in August and they will flower in September and October. Dig a hole 8-10cm deep and plant bulbs 15cm apart. Wear gloves when handling the corms as they are poisonous.

How to propagate autumn crocus

Autumn crocus corms with visible offsets for propagation
Autumn crocus corms with visible offsets for propagation

Autumn crocus will generally spread and naturalise without any help. However, if you do want to propagate them, you can take offsets from the main corms in summer, after the leaves have died back.

How to care for autumn crocus

Once established, autumn crocus do not need any extra care. After the flowers have died back, the leaves will appear in spring and the bulbs will continue flowering for many years.

Pests and diseases

Autumn crocus are generally pest and disease-free.

Advice on buying autumn crocus

  • Autumn crocus come in a variety of colours – choose the perfect one for your growing space and colour combinations
  • Always check corms for signs of damage or disease before planting, and discard any that are soft or have white mould growing on them

Where to buy autumn crocus

Great autumn crocus varieties to grow

Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ – has double pink-purple flowers that look similar to water lilies, hence the name. It looks good planted under shrubs or trees or among other herbaceous plants. Height x Spread: 15cm x 10cm

Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ – has simple pink-purple flowers. The large, floppy foliage grows in spring and dies back in the summer. H x S: 15cm x 10cm

Colchicum speciosum – has pink-purple flowers. The flowers appear alone, with the leaves following in spring. It’s ideal for naturalising in grass or at the front of a sunny border. Grow Colchicum speciosum in well-drained soil in full sun. H x S: 20cm x 20cm

Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’ – this is a pure white form, that is easy to grow in sun or dappled shade. As with other types, the leafless flowers appear in autumn and the foliage in following spring. H x S: 15cm x 10cm

Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’ – the white flowers with green throats appear in autumn and can be quite large, between 6-15cm in height with the strappy leaves following in spring. H x S: 20cm x 20cm