How to Grow Colchicum Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron, and Naked Ladies

Colchicum are hardy bulbs that have either crocus or water lily like pink flowers.

Depending upon the species of Colchicum flowering can occur in spring, late summer or autumn.

Some of the names for members of the Colchicum genus include Meadow saffron, Naked ladies, Naked boys, and Autumn crocus.

Colchicum autumnale
Colchicum autumnale by Dorocia.

Colchicum variegatum by Tejvan Pettinger.

Colchicum Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron, Naked Ladies, Naked Boys.
Life Cycle: Hardy bulb.
Height: One to four inches (3 to 10 cm).
Native: Europe, Mediterranean, Western Asia.

Growing Region: Zones 4 to 9.
Flowers: Species dependent: Beginning of spring or late summer and/or autumn.
Flower Details: Pink, violet, purple, white. Crocus-like. Water lily-like.
Foliage: Produces rosette leaves following flowering. Dark Green.

Sow Outside: Usually grown from bulbs as seed grown plants will not bear flowers for about five or six years.
Colchicum Bulbs: 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 cm). Late summer and early autumn.
Seeds: Surface 1/8 inch (3 mm). Late summer and early autumn. Germination time: one month to one year. Seeds should first be sown into flats, cover with layers of a compost and grit. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. After one year transfer corms to a nursery bed with a spacing of about 12 inches (30 cm). Grow for a further two years, and then transfer to the garden towards the end of summer or early in autumn.
Sow Inside: No.

Requirements: Full sunlight or partial shade. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5. Rich soil, light soil. Regular watering during dry periods. Leaves will wither in spring, allow to die completely then remove. Propagate: Cormels can be divided in the summer.

How to Grow Meadow Saffron, Autumn Crocus, and other Colchicum

If growing Colchicum it is best to plant seeds (in flats, covered in compost and a light layer of gravel; under glass)or bulbs outdoors in early autumn.

Seeds should be planted at a depth of 3 mm, small bulbs 8 cm deep and large bulbs 12 cm deep.

They should be planted into a partially shaded or sunny ares of the garden into a light but rich soil of pH 5.5 to 6.5.

The seedlings should be removed from the flats about a year after germination and transplanted with a spacing of about 20 cm.

Caring for Colchicum in the Garden

It will take about four years until Meadow Saffron and other Colchicum members to first flower.

The plant dies back every year, and the leaves should only be removed once they have completely withered and died.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Colchicum plants. Updated September 2020.