Colchicum atropurpureum

– Posted in: Colchicums

Colchicum atropurpureum?

Yes, colchicums again. Or still. I can’t help it. When I start a project I like to finish it. And the box with all my colchicum books and notes has been banging around first the dining room, and then the living room, for far too long. Ask Collin, who has to clean the dining room, or Lachlan, who has to clean the living room. On second thought, don’t ask them. I–oh, never mind.

Colchicum atropurpureum has surprisingly slender leaves, especially compared to say, C. byzantinum, which has smaller flowers, but much wider and more plentiful leaves. In fact, I thought it was an offset of one of the other colchicums I have in this ell-of-the-house bed, but a consultation with Russell Stafford of Odyssey Bulbs persuaded me that C. atropurpureum might not be missing in action.

Mr. Stafford calls it “the deepest hued colchicum,” but, I don’t know, it seems to me that ‘Dick Trotter’–or was it ‘Nancy Lindsay’?–was equally rich in coloration. {Sigh} This is what I get for posting so long after the fact. Anyway, I think it’s really elegant. Its long perianth tube perfectly supports the blossom with the grace of a ballerina–no flopping over like ‘Lilac Wonder’ does–and it really is a deep, rich, beautiful hue. One thing all my sources mention is how it is white in bud, but I have seen other of my colchicums start out white and then color up, so I wonder why it is considered significant for this plant? Highly recommended.

Update 2006: I now believe this to be ‘Zephyr,’ and C. atropurpureum may never have bloomed. It should be quite a bit smaller than this plant.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Jim Shields October 30, 2009, 5:54 pm

Your flower does not look like the flowers I have this year on bulbs received as Colchicum atropurpureum. Mine have star-like flowers of a much deeper burgundy to red-violet color with narrow, pointed petals.

I posted a picture of mine at on October 23, 2009. I can’t swear that mine is Colchicum atropurpureum.

Kathy Purdy October 31, 2009, 1:14 pm

Hi, Jim. Thank you for stopping by. I recognize your name from the Pacific Bulb Society email list. I agree, it is not C. atropurpureum. It is ‘Zephyr,’ which I stated in the update at the bottom of the post, and confirmed when I dug this clump up earlier this year (2009) and found the buried label.