Colchicum are more commonly known as autumn crocuses as they look so similar to spring crocuses.
However, they’re in fact part of the lily family and are not related to the familiar crocus at all. Autumn crocus most commonly bloom in autumn, and look best naturalised in grass, under trees, or at the front of borders. Flowers range in colour from the palest of pink and purple to pure white. The flowers come up without any leaves which gives them their other common name ‘naked ladies’.
Where to plant autumn crocus
Plant autumn crocus in well-drained soil in dappled shade under trees or in grass.
Watch as Monty Don explains how and when autumn crocus flower, in this clip from Gardeners’ World:
How to plant autumn crocus
Plant autumn crocus corms in August and they will flower in September and October. Dig a hole 5cm deep and plant bulbs 15cm apart. All parts of the plant are poisonous, so wear gloves when handling the bulbs.
Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to plant autumn crocus at the base of a hedge:
How to propagate autumn crocus
Autumn crocus will generally spread and naturalise without any help. However, if you do want to propagate them, you can take offsets in summer, after the leaves have died back.
Growing autumn crocus: problem solving
Autumn crocus are generally pest and disease-free.
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.
Watch Monty Don talk about the joys of growing autumn crocus in this video from Gardeners’ World.
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
- Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ – has simple pink-purple flowers. The large, floppy foliage grows in spring and dies back in the summer
- 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
- 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
- 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