Colchicum, Meadow Saffron

Colchicum, or meadow saffron, produces blossoms in shades from white to magenta. See more pictures of bulb gardens.

By far the most spectacular of the fall-flowering bulbs, colchicum, or meadow saffron, blooms just as the flower border begins to fade and trees take on their fall colors. Colchicum corms are highly toxic; keep them away from children and pets.

Description of colchicum: Single-flowered colchicums produce cup-shaped flowers in shades of white through magenta. Double flowered forms have star-shaped blooms. The flowers range in size from 2-inch crocuslike blossoms to giants up to 8 inches across. Flowers arise directly from the ground. The long, shiny, strap-shaped leaves don't appear until the following spring. With time, a single bulb can produce an impressive mound of flowers. Ease of care: Easy.

Growing colchicum: In early fall plant corms 4 to 6 inches deep, 8 inches apart, in sunny, well-drained area. Don't delay planting, or the corms will bloom on their own in the sac in which you bought them. Winter mulching is advisable in colder areas. Bare corms are sometimes allowed to bloom on windowsills as a novelty. Colchicums are treated as annuals in warm climates; they need cold winters to establish themselves.

Propagating colchicum: Start new plants by division.

Uses for colchicum: Beds and borders. Can also be naturalized in lawns and meadows.

Colchicum related varieties: The Giant violet, and Lilac Wonder, lilac, are hybrid colchicums that produce large flowers. Waterlily, deep pink-lilac, has a spectacular double-flower, but the heavy flowers often bend under their own weight. Other fall-flowering bulbs include lily-of-the-field (Sternbergia) and autumn crocus (Crocus species).

Scientific name of colchicum: Colchicum species

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  • Garden Types: Learn about the various types of gardens, and which is right for you.