September 22, 2011
Colchicums are fall-blooming bulbs that send out their leaves in the spring, then bloom with lavender-pink or white flowers while their bulbs are dormant (with no leaves or roots growing). I have 2 or 3 types of Colchicum growing in my yard. The information and photos in this post are about Colchicum cilicicum.
Catalogs usually show a picture of the flowers, but not the leaves. So when these tulip-like leaves started peeking up this spring, I could not figure out what they were.
Gradually I remembered planting Colchicums last year (obviously I didn't keep good records, oh well). Their leaves are often described as similar to hostas. I'd say they're like a mix of hosta and tulip leaves.
Here are the leaves in full growth. They stuck around through June, then started dying back.
Now - in September - the flowers are starting to appear. Although Colchicums are deer-resistant, the flowers I having growing outside appear to have been nibbled on by slugs. So these photos all show another batch that I ordered and didn't get planted yet. Since they bloom while dormant, these new ones are happily blooming on my windowsill, without needing water or soil.
The bulbs look like distorted tulip bulbs. Eventually they can grow to be very large, and some types put out up to 25 flowers per bulb.
These new bulbs are blooming with 5-7 flowers each. The flowers grow to about 6 inches high and have a faint scent. They should be planted somewhere special where you'll notice the floral surprise in the fall.
Colchicum cilicicum is hardy in zones 5-8 and prefers well-drained, fertile soil and shade from intense sun. These bulbs aren't inexpensive, unfortunately, but they do come back year after year if they don't rot in waterlogged soil. I ordered mine from Brent & Becky's Bulbs.
If you're looking for something a little unusual or just want some fresh flowers in the fall, check out the Colchicums. There are a number of different types - some double - and their flowers are all exquisite.