If It’s Not Spring, Why Are My "Crocus" Blooming?

Each fall I enjoy a brief punch of color as my “fall crocus” come into bloom about now. They are not real crocus, but of the genus Colchicum, not Crocus. They are bulb plants that are bigger than crocus and bloom now without leaves. I’ve grown them in pink, lavender and white, both singles and doubles.

Colchicum come in white, pink, lavendar

Bulb companies generally sell colchicum in late summer, and they are ready to bloom a month or two later. I once was given the opportunity to dig colchicum bulbs before a property was sold, and harvested a couple of dozen while in bloom. They bloomed dramatically for a few years, but gradually their numbers declined and now I have just a few. Most experts say they are hardy to Zone 5, and I am in a Zone 4 garden where temperatures usually go to minus 20 or 25 each winter, which probably explains the disappearance of mine. The bulbs are poisonous, so at least the smart rodents won't eat them (Darwin understood this). 

This double is blooming for me right now!

These bulbs produce leaves in the spring, then those disappear, only to have blossoms appear in fall. Each bulb will send up a series of blossoms, anywhere from 3 or 4 to as many as 15 or 20.

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The blossoms appear on the end of long tubes with star-shaped arrangements of petals. These tend to flop over, but if you plant them in amongst ground covers, say myrtle or ivy, the ground cover will help to support the blossoms. I’ve found the heavier double blossoms flop the least – mine have shorter flower tubes than the singles.

This beauty has disappeared from my garden, alas.

Looking at these bulbs online I see they cost  $7 per bulb or more. And they don’t show them flopping over, so maybe they have now been bred to be shorter. At any rate, they’re worth trying, though I think you’ll probably have to wait until next year to get some bulbs.

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