How To Grow: Fall Flowering Bulbs

Learn how to plant and grow autumn crocus and other all flowering bulbs.

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Crocus, Saffron, Violet, Spring Flowers, KrokusWhen I say flowering bulbs, most people think of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring bloomers. But if you look closely around some yards in fall you’ll notice a whole other group of bulbs flowering now. These are the autumn flowering bulbs and I think they deserve more attention. Colchicum and autumn crocus bulbs are planted now to bloom in fall. They provide a splash of color to perennial gardens often with only asters, sedum and goldenrod in bloom. Their bright colors make you feel like its spring all over again. Let’s look at some of these fall beauties.

The best known fall flowering bulbs is the autumn crocus. Probably the most famous is the saffron crocus or Crocus sativus. The stigmas of the flower are harvested to yield this exotic, pricy spice. It takes 150 flowers to yield just one gram of saffron. Unfortunately, saffron crocus are marginally hardy in Vermont, so there goes my dream of getting rich as a crocus farmer. But, you can grow Crocus speciosa that flowers in fall and is hardy. Some varieties to try ‘Alba’, which is white, ‘Cassiope’ which is blue with a yellow throat, and ‘Conquerer’, which is violet.

The most showy of the fall bulbs is colchicum. These flowers emerge in early fall without the foliage and have large, white, pink, or violet colored blooms. Some, such as ‘Waterlily’, are double petaled increasing the attraction. In spring, the leaves emerge to rejuvenate the bulb. It’s hardy to zone 5 so will need some protection in colder areas.

Plant these bulbs among shrubs and perennial flowers now in well-drained soil. Space autumn flowering crocus 3 inches apart and colchicums 10 inches apart. Protect them in winter with a layer of bark mulch.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio