Colchicum

How To Grow Captivating Colchicums

Plant Colchicums for a burst of Spring colour at the end of Summer

The colchicum is a foretaste of spring in autumn. When most of the summer flowers, in late summer and early autumn are fading, up pops this autumn flowering crocus. It is also called Naked Ladies after the fact that the flower emerges without any leaves; which emerge in spring. It is native to Western Asia, Europe, Eastern Africa down to South Africa and the Western Cape. The British native, Colchicum autumnale, or Meadow Saffron, occurs in damp meadows in the western parts Britain.  It is a member of the lily family with approximately 65 species worldwide. The leaves, seeds and corm are all poisonous so care must be taken to ensure it does not get mixed up with any edible bulbs.

Position

It needs a moisture retentive, fertile soil so poorer soils must be improved by adding a good quality peat-free compost. If your soil is too heavy and wet then add coarse grit to improve the drainage. Plant in a sheltered spot which receives sunlight for half the day; this will ensure a succession of flowers. If planted in too much shade the flowers will be sparse and what does emerge will be weak and spindly. Each corm should give 5 – 6 flowers.

Planting

Plant the dry corms in July or August, or by the end of September at the very latest. Plant 7.5 – 10cm (3 – 4”) deep and 15cm (6”) apart.

Aftercare

When the corms are dormant, between flowering and the leaves emerging (November to Febuary), top dress with well-rotted farmyard manure or good quality garden compost. Feed in spring with a foliar feed, such as seaweed extract. Don't cut the leaves off, they need to die down naturally in order to feed the corm for the following flowering period. If you have planted the smaller corms in a meadow to naturalise make sure you don't mow until all the leaves have died down.

Propagation

Lift and divide in late summer when the foliage has died down. Re-plant in July or August. This can be done every 4 – 5 years. 

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer so always used to producing something from the earth, whether it was animals or garden produce. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I also keep a few hens and grow vegetables for my own personal use. I gained a BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management. As a result of this I have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening.