Colchicums 101

Thu, 2021-10-07 08:55 -- gsparrow
7 Oct
Kathy Purdy

OVER THIRTY YEARS ago, I moved into a 19th-century farmhouse shortly before snow started falling, burying whatever remained of the previous owner’s garden. I patrolled the yard daily once the snow melted, and among the earliest sprouts were points of green that I initially thought were hyacinths. As they emerged further, the leaves became wider and I guessed they were tulips. As they grew to their final height, over a foot (30 cm) tall and six inches (15 cm) wide, with no sign of flowers I had to admit I didn’t know what they were.

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Submitted by 70500 on

Wonderful mouth-watering text and photos. Your comments on the difference between colchicums and autumn crocus are amusing. Visitors here (Lilactree Farm) arrive convinced that they know an autumn crocus when they see it, and my pedantic efforts to explain the differences fall mostly on deaf ears. As the visitors leave they often say, 'Like your colchis, but they're really autumn crocus.' You mention the 'problem' of the spring foliage; how do you deal with it?
Brian Bixley

Submitted by kopurdy on

Well, Brian, I could write another whole article on that topic. You can plant them at the edges of hostas and daylilies, or interplant among heucheras. In my speaking presentations I have also shared your technique of interplanting with hardy geraniums. Lately I have focused more on making sure the colchicum flowers are surrounded by complementary plants to show them at their best. I seem to be equally adept at ignoring yellowing colchicum foliage as I am at ignoring cobwebs in the house. And I've run out of hostas and daylilies to hide the leaves with. When they flop over, the leaves can smother other plants and that to me is the primary concern when siting them. Thank you for your kind words. Kathy Purdy

Oxford, NY ~ USDA Hardiness Zone 5a