Guide to Growing Colchicum (Autumn Crocus)

Updated/Fact-Chacked on October 11, 2021 by John

Full Name: Colchicum
Plant: April, May, June
Flower: September, October
Divide: June, July August
Varieties: Colchicum ‘Waterlily’, Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’, Colchicum speciosum, Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’ , Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’


Did you know that the Autumn Crocus is a member of the lily family? It’s more commonly known as meadow saffron and has a beautiful purple color with a white and yellow centre for great autumn colour. And, you guessed it, the flower appears around the autumn season.

Colchicum flowering

Before you consider growing autumn crocus plants, know that all of its parts are toxic and if you ingest a small amount, it could lead to poisoning. And this has been its reputation as it is listed throughout history. Greek slaves were said to eat parts of the Autumn Crocus plants so they could get sick and eventually die. What a odd way to commit suicide but it’s crazy nonetheless.

But don’t worry, there is still good in these plants as they are being used for medicinal purposes as well. In fact, it can be considered as one of the earliest forms of medicine because it was mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, the oldest known medical recordings of its kind from Ancient Egypt. And years after, you still see it as one of the plants with the best medicinal value.

Kinds of Autumn Crocuses in the UK

Crocus Pulchellus is the hairy crocus and grows up to 10cm. It has a pale lilac-blue flower that usually blooms before leaves appear.

Crocus Banaticus grows up to 2 inches. Flowers of this kind are usually violet but also white and appear in autumn. You can tell it’s a crocus banaticus because it has small inner tepals that are surrounded by 3 beautiful larger tepals. And the leaves look like grass without the usual silver stripes.

Crocus Carwrightianus is considered the parent of the Saffron Cocrus and is a seed producing species.

Crocus Longiflorus is perfect for you if you want a long-flowered crocus usually found in Southwest Italy. It grows up to 10 cm tall and has a pale purple flower that blooms in autumn.

How to Grow Autumn Crocuses

Generally, Autumn Crocuses are low maintenance. They don’t get the usual issues that other garden plants get like serious pests and plant disease. Plus, experts say that even animals are kind of appalled towards these plants so rabbits and deer don’t really destroy them.

It’s best to plant them around 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. You need to water them more during the summer because they’re going to need more moisture so you can be sure to keep the bulbs going.

These kinds of crocuses will need at least 12 hours of sun a day on its foliage phase. It would help us well if you could grow these plants under a shade so the flowers can bloom more or faster. As for soil, autumn crocuses aren’t so picky with soils whether they’re sandy loam or rocky, your plant will thrive. Plus, it is okay with any pH level – a little acidity and alkalinity wouldn’t hurt. Just make sure that the soil has a moderate level of moisture. If there’s too much moisture, it can make the root saggy and ruined and you shouldn’t make it too dry either.

As far as temperature is concerned, and this applies to most autumn crocuses, nothing too cold or too warm will help. This is why you need to be the one to control sunlight exposure or how moist the soil is. On top of that, have a good drainage system.

Can You Grow Autumn Crocuses in Pots?

A lot of people who are exploring plants and gardening in general usually start with indoor planting so you might be wondering if Autumn Crocuses can be planted in pots. The truth of the matter is autumn crocuses actually make great houseplants so, yes, you may plant them in pots.

You can choose any pot that you fancy just remember that just like other plants, you’re going to need adequate and proper drainage. They also grow in different kinds of soil as long their tips are still slightly sticking out. Make sure to water the bulbs and place the pot in a dark corner of your house for the first 15 weeks as they need to be in the cold during this period.

Once you start seeing a sprout, you may now move them to a lit location so they can get more warmth. Give them at least Water as usual but be careful not to over hydrate the soil and always check for blockages in the drainage.

Are Autumn Crocuses Poisonous?

All parts of the autumn crocus are poisonous. This plant contains colchicine that causes symptoms like abdominal cramps and diarrhea almost immediately after ingestion. And if not treated well, a person may suffer from multiorgan failure, cardiovascular collapse or pancytopenia which could be a miliary tuberculosis and the like.