Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: False Autumn Crocus, Showy Colchicum, Naked Ladies, Meadow Saffron
Colchicum autumnale

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Family: Colchicaceae
Genus: Colchicum (KOHL-chik-um) (Info)
Species: autumnale (aw-tum-NAH-lee) (Info)

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12 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Category:
Bulbs

Height:
6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

Spacing:
3-6 in. (7-15 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Danger:
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Pink
Violet/Lavender
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall

Foliage:
Variegated
Silver/Gray
Blue-Green
Smooth-Textured
Good Fall Color

Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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There are a total of 10 photos.
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Profile:

5 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive coriaceous On Apr 10, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

The chalice-shaped lavender-pink flowers bloom without foliage in August/September, when many gardens begin looking tired. The flowers often fall over after a day or so---they are often grown through a low groundcover for support. I always look forward to their appearance, and I'm always disappointed that they last so briefly.

Each corm produces a cluster of flowers, sending them up in succession over about two weeks. Because the corms multiply rapidly by offsets, I'm inclined to plant them 12-18" apart. They aren't cheap, but even a single corm will soon produce a substantial display if you dig and move its offsets every few years when the foliage goes dormant. Corms should be ordered for late summer delivery and planted immediately, or they will bloom in storage.

The glossy spring leaves are big and beautiful, though their demise is conspicuous and protracted. Broad, straplike, to 1' long, they rise in earliest spring and go dormant in June. As the corms multiply, the clump of foliage tends to smother its spring neighbors.

Colchicums perform well in full sun to part shade. They do well in the shade of deciduous trees. I think of colchicums as among the more shade-tolerant of bulbs---similar in their requirements to daffodils, and just as easy.

Good drainage is essential. Consistent moisture is needed only when the leaves are active in spring. Too much water leads to corm rot, especially during summer dormancy. Colchicums perform well under large deciduous shrubs and trees, whose roots absorb any excess moisture in summer. All colchicums are intolerant of standing water.

All parts contain toxic concentrations of colchicine, and are not generally bothered by herbivores. Leaves, corms, and flowers are vulnerable to snails and slugs.

Soil pH can be acid, neutral, or alkaline, as long as it's well drained. This plant tolerates poor soil, but quickly shows its appreciation for added organic matter. Armitage says it's hardy in Z4-7 in eastern North America.

Propagation by separating offsets is easiest, but this species can also be grown from seed---though it's notoriously slow and difficult. Seeds can take up to 2 years to germinate, and another 4-5 years for plants to reach flowering size. You can find some tips for germinating and growing colchicum here: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Colchicu...

This species is commonly called autumn crocus or meadow saffron. Both names are correct but misleading, as it is not a crocus, nor does it produce saffron. There are true crocuses that bloom in the fall, and among them is the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus.

"Naked ladies" usually refers to Amaryllis belladonna. "Showy colchicum" refers to Colchicum speciosum.

Neutral FallbrookGardnr On Dec 26, 2011, FallbrookGardnr from Fallbrook, CA wrote:

I dug up some of these bulbs from a friends yard after they had finished blooming in September (California). I planted them in my yard and they bloomed the first year after planting. They have not bloomed since!! I have some bulbs in the ground and others in a large pot with other plants...none of the them have bloomed in years. The leaves are lush & green then when they die off the blooms should appear. I do nothing for them so I wonder what I need to do to get them to bloom. I see them in the wild in Fallbrook, Ca. where no one has attended to them..so what gives with them not blooming for me? If anyone can offer up a solution, it would be appreciated.

Positive Scorpioangel On Sep 13, 2005, Scorpioangel from Gold Hill, OR (Zone 7a) wrote:

A great filler plant in the spring ... nothing like glossy green leaves to make you want to get out and get ready for the coming show of spring flowers. Then after the dry summer, when not much else around here is in bloom, they start poking out of the ground. They are a welcome site this time of year when all the potted plants are being stored away for protection.

Positive Howard_C On Oct 26, 2004, Howard_C from St John's, NL wrote:

The pure wild species is a bit shapeless, with its paddled shaped petals which open wide leaving gaps between them, but the two white varieties (probably hybrids) are much better. Look good en masse.

This plant occurs wild in Britain, the only colchicum to do so.

I would hesitate to ingest any part of any colchicum, they contain the poisonous alkaloid colchicine, which does have some medical uses - not for the amateur herbalist though. I have had some reaction in my hands by just handling the corms at replanting time, so wear gloves now when I am doing this. Although I do handle several hundred most autumns and am probably more exposed than most!

Positive daryl On Sep 8, 2004, daryl from vernon, BC (Zone 6a) wrote:

I agree, they do of course have leaves in the spring,quite large actually (I'll take a pic in the spring).Also they can be used as a diuretic,but a word to the wise, they are also highly toxic and there can be serious consiquences to an overdose!!!

Positive albleroy On Feb 28, 2003, albleroy from Wavre/ greenhous +/- 2500 species, IA wrote:

Excuse me, but this plant does have leaves during springtime(vegetative period), and is flowering after summer rest with, indeed only the flowers. In Dutch we name it "herfst stijlloze" what means wearing flower in fall without leaves.
This bulbs are used as medcines for those who have to much ureum and or ureum acid in the blood. It provocs diaree.
Albert

Neutral killerdaisy On Aug 8, 2001, killerdaisy from Dallas, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

These bulbs produce ONLY flowers, which arise in little clusters directly from the ground, with no foliage supporting them. Allow for abundant watering while active.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fallbrook, California
Garberville, California
Villa Park, California
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Bucyrus, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Gold Hill, Oregon
Conway, South Carolina
Kennewick, Washington
Sedro Woolley, Washington



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