How to grow colchicums

How to grow autumn crocus

Find out how to grow colchicums, or autumn crocus, in our detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Divide
Divide

Do not Divide in January

Do not Divide in February

Do not Divide in March

Do not Divide in April

Do not Divide in May

Do Divide in June

Do Divide in July

Do Divide in August

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in October

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Colchicum are more commonly known as autumn crocuses as they look so similar to spring crocuses.

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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’.

Autumn crocus most commonly bloom in autumn, and look best naturalised in grass, under trees, or at the front of borders.

Where to plant autumn crocus

How to grow autumn crocus - autumn crocus flower
How to grow autumn crocus – autumn crocus flower

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

How to grow autumn crocus - planting autumn crocus
How to grow autumn crocus – planting 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

How to grow autumn crocus - autumn crocus bulbs with offsets
How to grow autumn crocus – autumn crocus bulbs with offsets

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.

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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