Early Blooming Colchicums

– Posted in: Colchicums

For those of you just joining in, I am something of a colchicum aficionado. I collect colchicums the way some people collect fiestaware or baseball cards. I want to have one of each, and I want to make sure each one is authentic.

What are colchicums, anyway?

Colchicums are plants that grow from corms. Most of the ones that can be grown in North America bloom in the fall without any leaves. The leaves emerge in the spring–sometimes with seedpods, sometimes not–but no sign of flowers. The leaves gradually turn yellow and die back in early summer, leaving the dormant corm in the ground. It looks like nothing’s growing there until some time in the fall, the flowers pop up once again. So let’s take a look at the colchicums that bloom early in the season.

All of these are done blooming now.

Lysimachus colchicum

‘Lysimachus’ won the prize for first bloom this year.

‘Lysimachus’ is a hybrid of C. autumnale ‘Drama Bunch’ with the other parent presumed to be C. haynaldii. It has always impressed me with how many flowers come from just one corm.
Karin Persson colchicum

C. autumnale ‘Karin Persson’

Karin Persson is a Swedish colchicum expert. This colchicum bloomed early as expected, but doesn’t look like the flower of the same name here. This is its first year blooming for me, and sometimes the first year bloom is atypical, so I am withholding judgment at this point.
Jochem Hof colchicum

I don’t know who ‘Jochem Hof’ is, but he has a mighty fine colchicum named after him.

Spring of 2014, Jochem’s foliage didn’t look right, and that fall the flowers emerged tattered and unhappy. So after the foliage died down this year, I moved Jochem to new quarters and he seems much happier.
Colchicum byzantinum

C. byzantinum, early and floriferous.

These were my introduction to the genus, growing among the peonies at our first house.
C. byzantinum 'Innocence'

C. byzantinum ‘Innocence’

You don’t always see the slight pink flush of this white form, but it always has pink styles to reassure you that it is indeed C. byzantinum.
Nancy Lindsay Salvia forskaohlei

C. autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ playing peek-a-boo with Salvia forskaohlei

‘Nancy Lindsay’ is earlier and more vigorous than the straight species, and has an attractive purple perianth tube (not technically a stem, but it holds the flower up).
Beaconsfield Disraeli colchicum Hot Stuff sedum

‘Beaconsfield/Disraeli’ consorting with ‘Hot Stuff’ Sedum spectabile

I bought C. ‘Disraeli’ in 2012 from one source and C. ‘Beaconsfield’ in 2010 from another source. I planted them in different locations. But after a while, I noticed they looked very similar–identical, in fact. This year I dug both of them up, mixed them together, and planted them around ‘Hot Stuff’ sedum. (Lord Disraeli’s estate was called Beaconsfield, so possibly they are synonyms. Or one of them is an impostor.)
Colchicum agrippinum

Can you see the tessellation on Colchicum agrippinum?

C. agrippinum is a bit fussier than some of the others, but I wanted it for its distinctly tessellated flowers. Tessella means “small square” in Latin, and since colchicums were first described by people writing in Latin, that was the easiest way to say they were checkered.
Colchicum Ordu 2013

C. speciosum ‘Ordu’ in happier times.

Missing from this lineup is ‘Ordu’, who only managed to send up a few tattered blossoms. I will have to relocate her next spring as I did ‘Jochem Hof’.

That wraps up the early season. I’ll post about the middle season next.

More about colchicums in the archives.

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 end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern October 8, 2015, 9:57 am

Such a beautiful collection Kathy and oh, what fall color in your garden! BRAVO!

Meg October 7, 2015, 10:58 pm

Thank you!

Meg October 7, 2015, 9:26 pm

Where do you find colchicums for sale? I only have one variety, and it’s one I picked up at a bulb sale a few years ago.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2015, 9:33 pm

I don’t know where you live. These places sell to United States customers: McClure & Zimmerman, Brent & Becky’s, White Flower Farm, Odyssey Bulbs, Daffodils and More. There may be others that I am unaware of. (If other readers know of additional sources, please chime in.) In the process of searching for information on colchicums I have stumbled across bulb vendors in other countries but I haven’t kept a list of them.

Gail October 7, 2015, 10:01 am

They’re beauties…makes sense to me why you collect them.

Heather October 7, 2015, 9:46 am

I’ve never grown colchicums before, but I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see them pop up in other landscapes. I just might have to give them a try!

Dee Nash October 7, 2015, 7:37 am

Just beautiful Kathy! Thank you for sharing them. You grow some great colchicums. ~~Dee

Carol Eichler October 7, 2015, 7:05 am

I just moved some colchicums while in bloom. I didn’t realize one corm can put out so many blooms – often 4-6. Now I know.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2015, 8:02 am

Eventually the corm does split but then you have a big one putting out lots of blooms (often quite a bit more than 4-6) plus some satellite corms putting out a lesser amount. And some make satellite corms rather rapidly. I tend to call those the vigorous ones. By digging and dividing them every second or third year, you can have quite a substantial patch after a while.

Carrie Rosberg October 7, 2015, 6:33 am

Such a wonderful flowers! I was amazed when I saw this pictures! The purple is my favorite color.
Best wishes,

Leslie October 7, 2015, 12:32 am

They are lovely…I understand your wanting to have them all!