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COLCHICUM autumnale

Image of Colchicum autumnale

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Liliaceae

Botanical Name

COLCHICUM autumnale

Plant Common Name

Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron, Naked Ladies

General Description

Like a welcome surprise, the lavender-pink, goblet-shaped flowers of autumn crocus pop up from the ground to confirm that summer has truly ended. The common name is misleading, though the flowers of this hardy "bulb" do superficially resemble crocuses, colchicums are not related to the genus Crocus.

Native from southern and western Europe to Russia, autumn crocus grows from plump corms (condensed underground stems) with papery tunics. In spring, these send up decorative large lance-shaped green leaves, which provide nourishment to the corm before withering and disappearing in late spring. The flowers arise in late summer and early fall, absent leaves. The long floral tubes are usually white and the petals (tepals) soft lavender-pink surrounding a central cluster of orange-yellow stamens. Bees flock to the flowers to store up pollen for winter.

The corms of autumn crocus are usually available for a short period in late summer, when they should be planted in a site with full to partial sun and fertile, humus-rich soil. Plant them in evergreen groundcovers such as ivy, creeping juniper, or Asiatic jasmine, which provide interest when the colchicums are dormant (and also help prop up the flowers). Colchicums also do and look well in meadows and lawns, or clumped in shrub borders.

This fascinating and beautiful plant is certain to brighten any garden. Its color is welcome in a season when the palette tends towards the yellows, oranges and blues of the fall composites. Some popular cultivars include 'Album', with white blossoms, and 'Pleniflorum', which has double pink-violet flowers.

There are health concerns associated with this plant; to learn more go to http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Colchau.htm

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Bulb or Corm or Tuber

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    4"-6" / 10.2cm - 15.2cm

  • Width

    4"-12" / 10.2cm - 30.5cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Summer, Early Fall

  • Native To

    Europe, Russia/Siberia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Pink, Light Pink, Lavender

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single, Double

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No