Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron
Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials
Native to Mediterranean region. Many species; sometimes called autumn crocus, but 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 dish on windowsill or planted in soil. When corms are planted out, broad leaves 6–12 in. long emerge in winter, last for a few months, and then die long before flower cluster rises from ground. Best planted where they need not be disturbed more often than every 3 years or so.
Autumn crocus exists as a species—pink is standard—and in hybrids that include ‘The Giant’, single lavender, and ‘Waterlily’, double violet. 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. Corms are available during a brief dormant period in the summer.