Have you seen the lavender-colored crocus-type flowers that emerge in local gardens in the fall? To me, these flowers look like they should be growing in the spring because of their pastel-purple flower color when the colors of fall are oranges and yellows. These flowers are Colchicum, sometimes known as fall or autumn crocus, but they are not crocus at all. Colchicum are bulbs (technically corms) and are planted in early fall and they also bloom in the fall. They do not have leaves when they bloom but instead their thick leaves come up in the spring and then disappear. The flowers then emerge in September. Often, when you purchase colchicum bulbs in the fall, they are already in bloom and should be planted as soon as possible. Because the flowers have no leaves when they are in bloom, they are sometimes called ‘naked ladies’.

Easy-to-grow colchicum need full sun or partial shade. They companion well with other perennials like daylilies and coralbells that bloom in mid-summer. Plant the large colchicum bulbs 4 to 6” deep and 6” apart. All parts of the Colchicum plant are poisonous to humans. Thankfully, most animals have the instinctive sense to stay away from them.

There are about 160 species of the genus Colchicum with flowers in colors of pale lavender, pink and white. A few of the best for our climate include…..

  • Waterlily, a hardy hybrid of colchicum also known as Meadow Saffron. Genus and species are Colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’. Waterlily’s lilac-pink showy double blossoms are 6 to 8 inches tall.
  • Lilac Wonder is a cultivar with pinkish purple flowers
  • ‘Innocence’ is a shorter hybrid with pure white flowers that have a bit of purple at the tip of each petal.

Try these easy-care flowers for a pastel surprise in your garden next fall.