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Brighten up the garden with autumn crocus’

Wednesday, 26th August, 2020 3:13pm

Margaret Griffin

Autumn crocus bulbs add lots of colour when most of the garden is getting ready for its long winter nap. Although commonly referred to as autumn crocus, colchicums are not closely related to true crocus.

Colchicum autumnal, commonly known as meadow saffron or naked lady, is a flower that resembles the spring flowering crocuses but blooms in autumn. The name naked lady comes from the fact that the flowers emerge from the ground long before the leaves have emerged.

Did you know that if you plant them now and they will bloom in three-four weeks?

The autumn crocus develops from a corm, which should be planted now - late summer or early autumn – two-four inches under the surface of the soil. The flowers tend to be delicate and should be protected, so situate them under low growing plants or even amid the lawn. Autumn crocus grows in a wide array of sites from full sun to partial shade.

Once planted, there is very little required. While they may need some water during arid conditions, they’re basically maintenance free. If your autumn crocus is planted among the grass, allow the foliage to die back before mowing.

Saffron crocus

This beautiful autumn-blooming saffron crocus (Crocus Sativus) is, as its name suggests, the flower from which we gather saffron, the quintessential seasoning for paella and other Mediterranean dishes and perfect for adding to basmati rice for an authentic Indian curry!

The lilac-purple flowers produce vibrant red stigmas, which have been used for flavouring and colouring dishes since Roman times. Plus they’re super-hardy, being tolerant of summer heat and winter cold and multiply rapidly from year to year.

Crocus waterlily

This is a standout variety sporting foliage in spring and early summer followed by blooms in autumn. The flowers are soft lavender-pink, arising in groups up to half a dozen on low-growing plants. Long-lasting and dependable, they are an excellent source of carefree colour for the border and woodland garden.

The giant

This autumn-blooming Colchicum bears up to ten funnel-shaped, extra-large, lavender-pink flowers with a delicate white throat. You will love the surprise of these blooms every autumn and they are so easy to grow.


Top tips

As always, buy early to get the best choice. Soak your bulbs overnight in diluted tomato food, this will give a much longer flowering period. In spring, when your bulbs have finished flowering, give them some slow release feeding and this will keep them in top condition for another year.

It's a great idea to plant your bulbs in a plastic pot (recycle some) and then plunge them in the ground. When flowering is over and you have got all of the please that these plants have to offer, lift the whole pot out of the ground and hide it somewhere in your garden, so that you won't have to look at the dead foliage.

If you would like advice on planting a spring bulb garden bed, email pictures of your garden to us at

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