Where’s the best place to buy colchicums?
Two people have asked me that in the past week, and I figure if two readers are actually asking me, there must be quite a few more who are wondering the same thing, but not wondering aloud.
When is the best time to buy colchicums?
I find I can’t talk about where without also talking about when and why. First, let’s review a little bit about colchicums. Their leaves come up in spring. The leaves die down in summer. The corms bloom in September and October. So the ideal time to plant them is late August or early September. Which means the best time to buy them is before September. You order them from the same catalogs as you do daffodils and crocus, but they ship them in late August/early September, so that you can plant them right before they bloom. (I’ve been told you can buy them in garden centers, but I’ve never seen them sold around here.)
Why do you want to buy colchicums?
If your answer to that question is, “Because they’re pretty!” and you don’t care what the variety name is, then shop by price. Regrettably, many colchicums sold online are not the correct variety, and some companies are more zealous to ensure their colchicums are true to name than others.
Ok, where’s the best place to buy colchicums if I don’t care what they’re called?
McClure and Zimmerman often offer a colchicum sampler collection, which is a great way to try several kinds of colchicum for a reasonable price. I have found that McClure and Zimmerman colchicums are not always true to name, however, so I don’t buy from them anymore, because I have become something of a connoisseur. If you’re not picky, they currently offer two colchicums on sale. However, they will have already bloomed and you won’t see anything until next spring, when the leaves come up.
Brent & Becky’s Bulbs also sells them, and I occasionally shop there if I am buying something else at the same time. I am not sure if anyone on the Brent & Becky’s staff “knows their colchicums,” but one year they refused to ship them and refunded my money because when they got them from the supplier they didn’t think the quality was up to their standards. That impressed me. But they are currently sold out.
White Flower Farm also sells colchicums but they are sold out. I have never ordered colchicums from them, but I have ordered other plants and I was happy with them.
Where should I buy colchicums if I want to be sure I’m getting the variety I ordered?
My two favorite places to get them from are Odyssey Bulbs and Daffodils and More, because they are more likely to have varieties that I don’t already have. They are both very small businesses and personally involved in the selection they offer. I believe they both grow some, if not all, of the bulbs they sell. They don’t offer the same varieties each year, as once they’ve sold a variety they have to build up stock before they can sell it again. I learned this the hard way: if either of these merchants is offering a colchicum you want this year, get it while you can! You may not see it offered again for a few years.
Mark it on your calendar!
Most digital calendar programs allow you to schedule reminders as far into the future as you wish. So somewhere around June 15th of next year, enter a reminder to go colchicum shopping. Some bulb merchants have early-bird specials that you may be able to take advantage of, and your more likely to get what you want if you order early. You may have noticed that individual colchicum corms can be pretty pricey. I usually only buy one of a variety I’m interested in, and dig it up and divide it as it multiplies. Also, one corm will have many flowers, even the first year, so don’t let price stop you. Take it slow and enjoy each new acquisition for the beauty it brings to autumn.