Fall Blooming Bulbs


It was just a few years ago that I discovered the existence of fall blooming bulbs. At first I thought they meant fall planted bulbs and had just gotten confused. But no, not only were there things like fall blooming crocus, there were several types of those along with other bulb species. The very first ones we tried were Crocus speciosus, above. The first batch was planted in late August and were up and blooming within five weeks. We made the mistake of planting them in a container and moving them to the ground after the blooms had finished. The reason that was a mistake is that the flowers come up first, then the foliage shows and remains, building energy for the next year’s flowers, until summer of the following year. They then go dormant and disappear. The flowers return in October to start the process again. The foliage of that maiden planting was not allowed to grow and feed the bulbs as it should have and they never returned. My bad.


Not to be deterred, the same type were ordered again the next summer, planted in very well drained sandy soil in the front raised planter and along the walkway to the front door where they could remain undisturbed. They have returned faithfully for several years now. The contrast of the brilliant dark orange stamens with violet veining on the pale blue petals is the perfect contrast for the fall hues of red, yellow and oranges of the deciduous among us.


Finding the right companions for these fall beauties has been less than successful, but the above groundcover of Ajuga reptans looks good. Something is needed to cover the bare legs of the blooms and help prop up those spindly chicken legs holding heavy blooms until the foliage appears. The planting of the speciosus was also another example of the planting technique of plopping a few here, a few there. Where is that shock collar for the gardener when needed, to force the correct planting of all together now? Bzzzz.


This year we came under the spell of the family of Colchicums, after a conversation with an expert on the subject, Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening at the Buffalo Blogger Meetup this past July. She has written several blog posts about the Colchicums that can be found here for more information. Her good luck with them, using lots of varieties, led us to order some for ourselves. Shown above is C. ‘Rosy Dawn’ from Brent And Becky’s Bulbs. Note to self: next year order the fall blooming bulbs sooner so that most will not already be sold out!


These are very large bulbs, each one spurting forth several strong stems of giant crocus-like old fashioned light bulb shaped flowers. They like good drainage, like the true crocus do, and have been planted along the driveway round under some clumps of pink Muhlenbergia capillaris. It is hoped that the pinks will combine nicely in the future as the bulbs multiply to fill in as slippers for the princess grass.


Ordered at the same time from Brent And Becky’s were C. ‘Violet Queen’. Some of these were already sprouting by the time they arrived in late September. They went from planting to blooming in less than a month.


That is as close to instant gratification that bulb gardening has to offer. Violet Queen was interplanted among the emerging tips of Crocus speciosus for a fuller and more lush showing. The Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ will offer an appropriate background for them in the raised front bed. It is hoped.


This bed has been troubled by varmints of the rodent variety, among them the vandal voles. It has been said that the critters do not care for the Colchicums, so the plan is that the larger colchs will deter the digging devils. Chickenwire was placed over the planting area until the bulbs emerged, as another layer of de-fence.


The native Tennessee stone that was added to the foundation of the house along with the frontage of the addition and the built by the stonemasons raised planter is worthy of the finest plantings. The Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ are used extensively in these front gardens along with some in the back. The lemon lime of the sedum should make a nice evergreen color coordination with the blue and voilet. The Crocus and Colchicums are the jewelry accessorizing the outfit. There is a small cutleaf red leaf Japanese Maple just out of the shot behind the Blue Stars. The short grass-like foliage that can be seen to the far right of the image is another very special fall bloomer.


Crocus sativus, also known as Saffron Crocus, of culinary fame, has returned to bloom after taking a year off with foliage only. The narrow blades appear before the flowers on this one, unlike the speciosus and Colchicums which show the flowers first. It may be that the energy expended to produce flowers takes two years to recharge. That has been the experience here so far. We shall see what happens in 2011 before speaking as if that is the truth of it. The gorgeous red stamens are the part of this crocus that is used in cooking and is said to be the most expensive , by weight, of any commodity in the world. A full report on the harvesting, with close up photos of tweezers in hand can be seen by clicking here-Mad About Saffron. This post remains one of those few with legs, meaning that many people still come by Fairegarden to read the two year old story. So far, the stamens have been plucked from the two flowers that have opened. When all flowers have been so robbed, we will again make some kind of delicious dish with the spice. Last time it was a chicken and rice combo, shared with my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone while she was visiting here for the first time. Maybe she can be enticed to come again with the thought of Saffron wafting through the kitchen.

Frances

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30 Responses to Fall Blooming Bulbs

  1. Karin says:

    Very nice post and great information! I recently discovered fall blooming bulbs and I love them too.

    Hi Karin, thanks. Having bulbs bloom in fall really adds pizzazz to the season with those fresh spring like colors! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. Les says:

    Last year I planted Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’. I am not so much fond of the color, but do love that it blooms when it does. Unfortunately they opted to bloom the week we got 15″ of rain, so they looked more like deflated pink balloons. My new favorite fall bloomer is Sternbergia and I just planted my first bulbs on Friday – with fingers crossed.

    Hi Les, so sorry to hear about your lack of enthusiasm for Lilac Wonder. I do think placement has a great impact, something nice to bounce that color off of. I am interested in the Sternbergia. It seems there is some reason we haven’t tried it yet, perhaps it needs more moisture than we have. Good luck with yours! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  3. gail says:

    Dear Frances, Very lovely photos. Fall blooming crocus are more vivid and beautiful than their spring cousins. I didn’t order any this year and boy am I sorry; only one came back from last year’s planting. Next year, I’ll order them when I order the colchicums~The colchicums are beautiful. I have Rosy Dawn, but yours looks rosier! They do need a nice companion plant to play against…thinking on that one! I would love to visit…I don’t need saffron to entice me, just available time! Where did this month go? Thank you for the link!!xxoogail

    Dear Gail, thanks. I agree, these seem to be more colorful, but it might just be our perception of them. Lighting and background planting seems to be very important with how these fall bloomers appear, both to the eye and to the camera. I do like the ajuga’s darkness. You are welcome to visit anytime at all, of course! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  4. Beautiful, Frances. I particularly love the last photo, with the droplet-spangled petals. Foolishly, I have no fall-blooming bulbs, a sad lack I’ll have to rectify. Thanks for letting us enjoy yours!

    Hi Helen, thanks, so nice to see you here. It seems we don’t think about the fall blooming bulbs until this time of year, need more of course! Then we forget. Must remember to order more before they are all sold out next year, for I love love love them! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  5. I’m a fellow lover of Colchicums, also thanks to Kathy Purdy. I’ve had ‘Water Lily’ for two years now and their enormous blooms just sitting on top of the soil creates discussion among visitors. My mom especially is enamored with them and wants to get some next year.

    Seeing your post makes me want MORE! Beautiful! (I need to get some of those saffron crocus, too. Whenever I see those or hear about them, I think of you!)

    Hi Kylee, thanks, so nice to see you here. Kathy is the queen of the Colchicums! I love those water lily ones too and will be ordering some for next year, if I can remember. Must write it down! I was worried when the saffron crocus did not flower last year, but am so happy to see them producing blooms, very late, this year. Maybe I should divide them? And when should that be done? I don’t want to lose them by not allowing the foliage to ripen properly. Write that down as well! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  6. Laurrie says:

    I just planted some white colchicums, and I hope I’ll see them this fall. I was interested to read that they need something to cover their knees… mine are in a bed of groundcover manzanita, so I hope that works for them. Thanks for the info, the lovely photos and the link to Kathy Purdy’s great info on colchicums! Very timely for me.

    Hi Laurrie, thanks for visiting. Good luck with your white colchs, I admire those very much and white is on my wish list for next year. Manzanita sounds like a like backdrop for them! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  7. The Colchicums and Crocuses look great with the stone. I like using Ceratostigma plumbaginoides as the groundcover in which to plant them. I hope you like the Colchicum foliage next spring. Most people hate it, but I find it beautiful.

    Hi MMD, thanks. Everything looks good against that stone! I can imagine the plumbago with the fall blooming bulbs, lovely! One of the reasons these bulbs are planted where they are is so the foliage will not bother me while I gaze out from the addition. I look forward to seeing it, if you think it is beautiful, I will too! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. Rose says:

    What beautiful photos this morning, Frances–do I spy drops of rain on the last one? If so, I’m envious:)
    This year is really the first year I’ve been aware of fall bulbs, seeing colchicums in several gardens I’ve visited. Thanks for showcasing these little beauties and discussing the different types; now I want to plant some next season. Of course, first I have to get busy and plant all those spring bulbs waiting for me in the garage:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. We did get a little rain last week, when that shot was taken, but still are more than a foot below our normal rainfall for the year. The fall bulbs are so sweet, they get planted in August here, so orders should be placed earlier than for the spring bloomers. You still have lots of time to plant those. I have a stack waiting for me too, and more ordered! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. marie brown says:

    thanks so much for the beautiful language as well as the photos. I am new to your blog and am telling friends about it.
    My pressing concern here in Cambridge Massachusetts is invasion by Black Swallow wort, and especially making people aware of it. Do you have it in Tennessee?

    Hi Marie, thanks so much. I looked up the Black Swallow wort, what a thug! We do not have it here that I am aware of, but we have our own bad guy, maybe you have heard of kudzu?
    Frances

  10. Kathy says:

    I have Crocus speciousus planted on the driveway bank along with Colchicum byzantinum. The C. byzantinum is over and out by the time the crocus blooms, and they do seem to flop for me, too. Anyway, it was interesting to see those two species blooming together for you.

    Hi Kathy, thanks for opening the door to the Colchs for us. It may be that Violet Queen was planted so late, the crocus bloomed at the same time. Next year will be a better guide as to what opens when. Many things are quite late this year for us, the sheffie mums and the muhly along the driveway for example. I am liking the crocus with the ajuga as background. More of that, I think. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. Steve says:

    Those are fabulous Crocus pictures. I believe it is nearly impossible to get enough blue in a landscape, personally. That was a cool “Naked Ladies” sighting as well, lol, which is what I have heard the pink beauties referred to – even in mixed company! πŸ˜‰ Psssst – I have pink bath tubs at my site today!

    Hi Steve, thanks. I agree about the blue, it is far too rare in the garden! I didn’t realize the Colchicums were also referred to as naked ladies. I thought that was only Lycoris. Just goes to show how common names can be confusing. I will check out your pink bath tub soon! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  12. I love fall blooming bulbs too. My GBBD post this month featured the colchicums in my front yard. I also have some of the “Water Lily” varieties of colchicums, one white and one lavender. You should look into those, they are really quite spectacular. I have sternbergia too, and it performs wonderfully well and adds a bright yellow note to the fall bloomers.

    Wonderful post, great language.

    Hi Hands, thanks. I am wanting the white water lily ones in particular. I will check out yours soon. They will be mine! HA I will have to try the Sternbergia, it would add zip to the blues and violets, thanks for the recommendation. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  13. Benjamin says:

    I swear I have spring blooming crocus coming up, because that’s where I planted them. The fall crocus are far away from that spot. Did they trade places over winter to confuse me? Likely. Plants are insidious. But these fall bulbs are coming just as the asters begin to end, so viva chaos.

    Hi Benjamin. I can’t comment on the switcheroo of your crocus, but am glad you have some of the fall blooming type. They are so welcome amid the chaos. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. gardeningasylum says:

    Oh Frances, I love the thought of you and Gail sitting down to a saffronish dish together! Lovely pictures, reminding me one kind of anything isn’t really enough πŸ™‚

    Hi Cindy, thanks. Gail and I did have fun together, as we always do, eating the saffron rice dish. We often can’t stop talking though to even digest what is going on around us. I was surprised by how well the Colchicums and Crocus went together, although in the future they may not bloom at the same time. Of course, we need more! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  15. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I say every year that I will plant some of these gorgeous bulbs. I had some once but they were accidently dug up at the wrong time and when replanted didn’t like where they were. I reallly do need to remedy this situation of no fall blooming crocus. Love your encouraging post.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I am happy to be an encouragement about planting the fall bloomers, they are not used nearly enough. One thing to note, don’t move them! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  16. Barbarapc says:

    Frances,
    My dear little fall bloomers have just bloomed – a double white and a couple little purple fellows. Love the way they burst forth as if to yell TADA! Only to find them the next day lying on the ground like injured soldiers. On one hand I like to see them next to my pathway – I just need to leave the leaves that fall to prop up their sunny little faces.

    Hi Barbara, that is exactly the same as here. But they do seem to stand back up each day. We are still looking for the perfect prop, but fallen leaves sounds perfect! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  17. patientgardener says:

    I have some Colchicums but they do get blown over with rain which is always disappointing. I do like the Crocus at the top so will go and see if that is available here

    Hi Helen, thanks for stopping by. Having some kind of ground cover to help prop up these fall bloomers seems to help with the flopping. Hope you can get the Crocus speciosus, it is very sweet. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  18. Hi Frances, I’ve missed you! It has been such a long time since I visited your paradise. I’m glad however that I’m back now and just in time for your beautiful autumn crocuses, gorgeous pictures/ Love Tyra

    Hi Tyra, thanks, it is so nice to see you here! I am glad you are back, there is still lots to see in the garden. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  19. Carol says:

    A “shock collar” to force the gardener to plant the right way? I think it would wear out on me! I do like fall blooming bulbs and need to add some for next fall. The ones I had got lost in the Patio ReDo of Summer 2010

    Hi Carol, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I need something to force me to plant things all together instead of spreading the wealth! Sorry about your bulb losses. Maybe they will show up in years to come, unless they are under the new patio!
    Frances

  20. One says:

    I really admire the photos you take. Absolutely stunning!

    Hi One, thanks so much. I appreciate those kind words. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  21. Joey says:

    So lovely, Frances. A delightful autumn gift.

    Hi Joey, thanks. The fall blooming bulbs are such a treat, something fresh and new when everything else is on a decline.
    Frances

  22. MA says:

    Hey Frances! The stamens on those are breathtaking! Is nature marvelous? Thanks for posting those. I love the up close look-see.

    Hi Mary Ann, thanks. The contrast of stamens and petals on the crocus really is wonderful. Glad you liked the macros. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  23. Garden Sense says:

    Beautiful post. The blooms look absolutely delicious. I especially like the pairing of the blue Crocus speciosus withe the deep purple of Ajuga.

    Hi Garden Sense, thanks and welcome. The ajuga makes a good background for the crocus. I need to do some replanting, borrowing ajuga from other spots to place around the crocus bare legs. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  24. VW says:

    Hi Frances, I just posted on my fall-blooming bulbs today. I’m getting such a kick out of them! Yours look lovely, looks like you have a lot more than I do. Mine need some ground cover at the base, I’ll have to think about what would work.

    Hi VW, thanks. I am so glad you have some of these beauties too. Mine have increased over the years, the crocus that is. I will be ordering more Colchicums next summer. I want white waterlily ones, among others. I do believe they need some underplanting to help them stand up.
    Frances

  25. Sweetbay says:

    I really love the blue-violet of those Crocus speciosus. That’s great that you were able to cook with the Saffron from your garden!

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks, so nice to see you here. The crocus are such a welcome color, with those orange stamens, being able to season food with the sativus is secondary. The saffron shrinks as it dries to be nearly invisible. We would need another thousand or so to even have more than one meal. HA πŸ™‚
    Frances

  26. TS says:

    The crocus are beautiful but I really love the stone walls! They lend such a wonderful, timeless feel to the garden. :0)

    Hi TS, thanks and welcome. I agree, the stone is most beautiful. There was enough leftover from the masonry jobs out front to be used for walls and the pond in back. I love that the stones can be used and reused over and over again as my stacking skills improve with practice. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  27. Blue , blue, blue and that touch of bright orange. I love the color splash along the stone wall. Lovely photos and macros as usual. Every year I plant bulbs, I always forget about the Colchicums. Shame on me, they are such a nice addition at a great time of year.

    Hi Donna, thanks. This is my first try with the Colchicums, and I am in love with them. It has been said that they will increase in numbers over the years. How wonderful! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  28. Love the macros on the anthers! πŸ™‚

    Hi Monica, thanks. Isn’t that color combo the greatest? Just shows that pale violet blue and dark burnt orange are a perfect match, rarely seen together. πŸ™‚
    Frances

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