Farrar in his book ‘The English Rock Garden’ describes this plant as “one of the most noble and beautiful plants in the world”. Flowering in April its formal upright elegant shape is an impressive sight just as winter approaches.
Colchicums are often called ‘Autumn Crocus” but they are no relation to true crocus which belongs to the family Iridaceae (Iris Family) and Colchicum belongs to the Lily Family (Liliaceae). The quick reference to identify the difference is to count the number of stamens. Crocus has three and Colchicum has six.
C. speciosum produces the largest flowers of all Colchicums. These giant tulip like cups are carried noblely on strong, elegant stems up to 300mm high. Within this species flower colour varies between deep crimson and rich lilac but in all cases they have a white base. They remain upright longer than other species. All colchicum are nudifloral plants which means they flower before leaves appear.
After flowering in April/May strong wide leaves appear and grow right through until January when they die off. In summer the bulbs like to be hot and dry which aids future growth and flowering.
C. speciosum “Album” is a large pure white goblet with a green stem. It is an exceptionally beautiful flower especially in the gloom of autumn.
“The Giant” is hybrid which has large lilac flowers and a white stem.