Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron
Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials
This group of delightful Mediterranean natives includes many species. They are sometimes called autumn crocus but are not true crocuses. Shining, brown-skinned, thick-scaled corms send up clusters of long-tubed, flaring lavender-pink, rose-purple, or white flowers to 4 in. across in late summer or early autumn, whether corms are sitting in a dish on a windowsill or planted in soil. When corms are planted out, broad leaves 6–12 in. long emerge in spring, last for a few months, and then die long before the flower cluster rises from the ground.
Corms are available during a brief dormant period in the summer. Common varieties include ‘The Giant’, single lavender, and ‘Waterlily’, double violet.
Best planted where they need not be disturbed more often than every 3 years or so. Plant corms 3 in. deep and 6–8 in. apart. Cut back on watering during dormancy, but don’t let the soil dry out. To plant in bowls, set upright on 1–2 in. of pebbles or in special fiber sold for this purpose, and fill with water to the base of the corms.
Autumn crocus exists as a species—pink is standard—and in hybrids that include ‘The Giant’, single lavender, and ‘Waterlily’, double violet.
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