Colchicum

This brilliant fall flower is easy to grow and will delight the eye with its beautiful color.

By Therese Ciesinski

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When the trees around my house take on their glowing autumn tones of red, gold, and orange, I don't expect my garden to compete. Instead, I switch color palettes entirely—to pink, lilac, and white. The change show- cases the lavender-pink blossoms of colchicum—a fall flower so brilliantly colored that it can draw the eye away from the spectacle in the treetops.

Colchicum bulbs (corms, actually) are so eager to grow that they'll bloom in their bag on a garden center shelf. Planted in soil, each bulb produces five or six flowers, which last for weeks. You'll often see colchicums referred to as autumn crocus, but they're a different species entirely.

Plant colchicums when the bulbs become available in August, for bloom just a few weeks later. Set them 3 to 4 inches deep, in full sun and in well-drained soil. Flowers will appear, but no leaves.

Colchicums are hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5. Cultivars include the exquisite 'Waterlily', 6 to 8 inches tall; 'The Giant', up to 12 inches tall with lavender-pink flowers; 'Violet Queen', purple flowers, up to 7 inches tall; and C. autumnale 'Album', white flowers, 4 inches tall.

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