Colchicum Patrol: Week 2

– Posted in: Colchicums, What's up/blooming
18 comments

Unknown colchicum

This pretty thing came with the wrong name. I don’t know the right name. When you’re a pretty flower it doesn’t matter.

Here I am on week 2 of the colchicum patrol. I see I promised I would show you last week’s colchicums as open flowers, but I changed my mind. I am just going to show you the newly opened ones because there just isn’t time. With the exception of the white byzantinum, they have all thrown up more blossoms, going from strength to strength.

Sadly, colchicum cultivars are very mixed up in the trade. The pretty flower above was sold to me as ‘Autumn Herald’, but when I go to the Pacific Bulb Society website, I see that ‘Autumn Herald’ looks entirely different. And I have other colchicums with other names that look like my ‘Autumn Herald’. It is a good thing that not knowing the correct name of a flower does not prevent you from enjoying it.

Colchicum agrippinum

The checkered look on this flower is called tessellation.

Colchicum agrippinum is one of the smaller flowered colchicums in my collection. I have to be careful to provide it with good drainage or it fails to come back after winter. I don’t mind going to the trouble because I like to see the tessellation.
Colchicum byzantinum

Colchicum byzantinum was my very first, the one that started it all.

The tricky thing about Colchicum byzantinum is that it is white when it first emerges, and gradually colors up. It was growing in the totally neglected garden of my former home when we first moved there, so must be hard to kill. And it makes lots of new bulbs. It would be a good one to start with.
Colchicum Nancy Lindsay

The flower ‘Nancy Lindsay’ has winning ways; the gardener she was named after, not so much.

They say ‘Nancy Lindsay’ is a selection of C. autumnale, but it is hard for me to believe, as ‘Nancy Lindsay’ seems far more vigorous and larger as well.
Colchicum Poseidon

‘Poseidon’ is big and beautiful.

‘Poseidon’ and ‘Nancy Lindsay’ share one thing in common: they both have a purple perianth tube. You see, colchicums don’t have stems above the ground. What holds them up is the same stuff the petals are made of. In most colchicums that tube is white, but some lucky ones have a pink to deep reddish purple tube. I am always on the lookout for new cultivars with purple tubes. Otherwise, ‘Nancy Lindsay’ is dainty compared to ‘Poseidon’.

Those are the new ones that have opened in the past week. More are coming; I see their pointy buds poking out of the ground. Come back next week and I’ll show you some more.

More Colchicum Patrols

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.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

~Margaret Atwood in

14 Comments… add one

Diane C September 24, 2013, 11:50 pm

Would I be better off to plant them in soil located under the eaves? It gets a bit of water when the surrounding ground gets drenched.

Donna@Gardens Eye View September 22, 2013, 12:09 am

Kathy you have some beautiful and unusual ones…mine have not shown up yet which is so strange.

Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening September 22, 2013, 9:18 am

Donna, I hate to say this, but with all the rain we’ve had this summer, it’s possible they rotted. On the other hand, I have had colchicums skip a year of bloom for no reason I could discern, so don’t give up hope!

Donna@Gardens Eye View September 23, 2013, 8:32 am

I saw their foliage so I hope they may still be alive. If I don’t see them, I will find better spots to plant more…

Deborah B September 19, 2013, 7:33 pm

I planted the bulbs you brought me in the garden bed across the driveway and all 3 types are blooming now. So beautiful! I first saw them Sunday evening when we got home from our week in Maine, and that was exciting. But seeing them open in the sun the next day was amazing! That Zephyr is huge!

Kathy Purdy September 19, 2013, 8:58 pm

Yes, ‘Zephyr’ is one of the bigger ones. So glad you are enjoying them!

Lisa@YourEasyGarden September 19, 2013, 7:04 pm

Fascinating! So they don’t have any underground stems, but in a botanical illustration I saw, they have leaves and seed capsules? Do those form later? Also, learned that colchicum containe colchicine, which is used to treat gout and something called familial Mediterranean fever. It’s also being developed as a cancer fighter! Apparently, it’s poisonous, and foragers have mistaken it for ramsons, or wild garlic. My parents have that growing in their hedgerow, so I’ll have to look to make sure it’s not colchicums!

Kathy Purdy September 19, 2013, 8:58 pm

Lisa, it sounds like you’ve done a bit of research. The leaves emerge in spring, so I’m not sure if you say they form later or much earlier. And sometimes there is a seed capsule in the center of the leaves.

Wendy September 18, 2013, 7:50 am

Thanks! :-) tinyurl.com/agapqh5

Layanee September 18, 2013, 6:40 am

You have converted me and I have bulbs waiting to be planted. Today is the day! For some of them anyway.

Wendy September 17, 2013, 9:12 pm

Aren’t these also referred to as crocuses?

Kathy Purdy September 17, 2013, 9:21 pm

Wendy, they are often called autumn crocuses but they are not true crocuses. I posted about autumn crocuses last year.

Mandy September 22, 2013, 10:54 pm

Kathy, is there any reason why mine haven’t bloomed this year? Yours look absolutely beautiful :)

Kathy Purdy September 23, 2013, 7:43 am

Different colchicum cultivars and species bloom at different times. Some of mine are just starting to emerge, and ‘Waterlily’ is always the very last. Sometimes a particular colchicum will skip a year for no reason I can figure out. If the leaves come up in spring, it is still alive. But if you have gotten more rain this summer than usual, and if you have clay soil, it is possible that they rotted. I had one colchicum bloom this fall whose blossom had signs of rot on it even as it was emerging from the soil.

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