Earliest Colchicums

– Posted in: Colchicums
12 comments

Colchicum season has started! In general, colchicums seem to be emerging earlier than usual–but why? Because it was cooler than usual? Because it was rainier than usual? Or both combined? I don’t know.

Pushing the zone

But I do know that I have deliberately sought out some colchicums that bloom earlier so that the season of bloom in my garden is extended. And to do that, I had to go a little bit out of my comfort zone–I mean, my hardiness zone. Yes, I have dared to plant some corms only rated as hardy to USDA Zone 6, and I am a cold Zone 5.

I planted them in the Herb Garden, which has the best drainage of any garden bed, and also is a warm microclimate. Shall we begin?

Colchicum graecum

Colchicum graecum AH.9141 first emerged on August 18th this year. This photo was taken August 24th, close to peak bloom. This one is supposedly only hardy to USDA Zone 6.

Colchicum autumnale Karin Persson

Colchicum autumnale ‘Karin Persson’ was the next one to bloom, on August 23rd.

Karin Persson is a retired botanist who specialized in colchicums. This colchicum was named after her when she identified it as a form of C. autumnale. It blooms earlier than any of the other variants of that species.
Colchicum TBD close up

By September 2nd, this colchicum, which was sold to me as TBD (identity To Be Determined) was blooming.

According to members of the Crocus and Colchicum Facebook group, this is a form of Colchicum speciosum. The earliest it’s ever bloomed for me before was September 8th, but often it’s later than that. Indeed, several corms of this same plant, just to the left of these flowers, are just starting to emerge.
Colchicum TBD

It looks lovely with an underplanting of purple-leaved heucheras.

Colchicum Disraeli Beaconsfield

I have this under two names, ‘Disraeli’ and ‘Beaconsfield’. September 6th.

Colchicum Disraeli Beaconsfield close up

I really like the intensity of the color and the checkered pattern (tessellation) on them.

Beaconsfield or Disraeli

One of these is ‘Disraeli’ and one is ‘Beaconsfield’. It turns out Benjamin Disraeli was the first Earl of Beaconsfield, so I think these are the same plant.

Or perhaps one is mis-named. Colchicums often seem to be mis-identified. It’s frustrating.
Colchicum Jochem Hof

‘Jochem Hof’ made an appearance on September 6th. Jochem Hof is the name of a botanical garden in the Netherlands.

This is another favorite of mine. The color is not quite as intense as Disraeli/Beaconsfield, but it attains its full color quickly and is strong and vigorous.
Colchicum Jochem Hof close up

Just pure saturated color, easily visible from a distance, and a lovely almond shape.

Come see my colchicums!

So that’s what’s been blooming for the first couple of weeks of Colchicum Season. If you’d like to see dozens of colchicum varieties blooming in one place, I’m opening my garden to the public on September 30th. Details here. ‘Karin Persson’ and Colchicum graecum are done blooming, but many more kinds will emerge by the end of September, and some of the others pictured here may still be blooming. After all, I had 19 different kinds of colchicums blooming on October 7th last year. A week earlier, even more were blooming.

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.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

12 Comments… add one

commonweeder September 14, 2017, 6:26 pm

I am newly inspired to find a place for colchicums – probably near the south border which is dry enough and public enough to please passers-by.

David September 14, 2017, 1:31 pm

More successful plant associations would be welcome as I feel colchicums need neighbouring plants for support – even plants for them to grow through.

Kathy Purdy September 14, 2017, 5:42 pm

Some colchicums, such as the Jochem Hof and TBD in this post, have nice sturdy tubes and don’t need support, though it may look nice to have plants around them. (The TBD lean because they really don’t get as much sun as they would like.) However, ‘Karin Persson’ has rather thin tubes. I might start growing this one through catmint or hardy geraniums. In both cases these companion plants would need to be cut back after blooming, so that they aren’t too tall when the colchicums bloom. Shorter forms of dianthus would be another option for support.

Kathy September 14, 2017, 8:29 am

Beautiful! Blooms in August??? Wow. Great luck with your garden opening and showing off those colchicums!

Frank September 12, 2017, 3:59 pm

You know I’ll be there!

Joanna September 12, 2017, 9:36 am

So pretty, but not in Zone 4. I will have to do a search and see if I can find any varieties of colchicums that are hardy here. I would love to come and see yours.

Kathy Purdy September 12, 2017, 1:17 pm

Joanna, many colchicums are hardy to Zone 4, even if the catalog doesn’t say so. C. graecum (at least I never tried it at my old house) is not, but I successfully grew C. speciosum, C. autumnale, and C. byzantinum in all their forms in Zone 4. And I could grow many others as long as I gave them good drainage by digging a goodly amount of grit into the soil.

Layanee DeMerchant September 12, 2017, 7:34 am

The colchicums which you sent me are now popping up with color. Thank you, thank you. I do love them.

Pat Webster www.siteandinsight.com September 11, 2017, 10:50 am

I wish I could visit you on the 30th… but I can’t. Hope the day is sunny and that lots of people come to admire the garden.

Oksana September 11, 2017, 9:55 am

Beautiful. I should check on my one little corm – it is somewhat covered by daylily foliage.

Kathy Purdy September 11, 2017, 10:00 am

Yes, Oksana, take a look and trim back the daylily foliage if needed.

Carol September 11, 2017, 9:21 am

A few of my colchicums are up and blooming, too, but I’ve long forgotten the varieties, though I know some came from you. Thank you! And if I lived closer, I would definitely come see your colchicums on 09/30!

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