I wish I had colchicums in my garden now. I used to grow them, and they never failed to wow me in the fall, when they would send up big, showy flowers from the grass or bed. No foliage – just great waterlily-type flowers.
Often called “autumn crocuses,” colchicums aren’t crocuses at all. They’re part of the lily family, and they are the only bulbs known to bloom while they’re dormant. (Actually, they are corms, not bulbs, however since most gardeners refer to them as bulbs, that’s what I’ll call them here.)
Colchicums produce foliage in the spring, but then the foliage dies back, leaving no trace of the plant. The flowers emerge in late September and October, showing spring-like mauves, pinks and even a stunning white – an unexpected and refreshing change from the usual autumn garden colors. They like to get several hours of sun a day, but will tolerate some shade. Plant them in a well-drained spot, and let them dry out a bit more while they are dormant.
Colchicums have a narrow window of planting and blooming. You can buy and plant them in the fall and enjoy instant gratification with flowers a couple of weeks later. For that reason, they are not always available at garden centers, and most people end up buying them from mail order sites. The bulbs can be pricey, but the plants are very easy to divide, and your initial investment of between $5 and $15 per bulb can yield many plants in just a couple of years.