Most gardeners think of bulbs as one of the first signs of spring. While it is true that many bulbs are indeed among the first plant bloom after the winter, there are a few bulbs which bloom in the fall. These fall blooming bulbs can add splashes of color to the garden and are a great addition to the fall landscape.
Fall blooming bulbs differ from the spring blooming varieties in that they will bloom 2 or 3 weeks after they are planted. Spring bloomers are planted in fall but don’t bloom until the following spring. When you buy your bulbs, plant them as soon as you can. They ideal for the full sun garden with will tolerate partial shade. They also prefer well drained soil. Check the bulb package carefully for individual planting depth and spacing requirements. Remember that with any bulb, the point should face up and the roots face down. Add in some bulb food and scratch it into the soil as you plant. In general bulbs are most effective when planted in large masses.
Two wonderful fall blooming bulbs are colchicum and crocus. These bloom in September and October. Crocus looks similar to the popular spring-flowering bulb of the same name. Colchicum looks like larger crocus. Fall bulbs flower amongst the colorful leaves in shades of yellow and purple.
Colchicums (Colchicum spp.) are actually corms and are members of the lily family. They produce large green leaves (up to 15 inches long) in the spring. The foliage remains until the end of summer at which point it turns yellow and dies. Then white, pink or purple crocus-like flowers emerge for the fall. Popular varieties include the white flowering Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’ and double flowering ‘Alboplenum’. Colchicum autumnale ‘The Giant’ produces stumming, purple and white flowers.
Since the dying foliage of colchicums is rather unattractive, gardeners should carefully select their planting sites. Good locations would be the front of a shrub border or under the filtered shade of large trees or shrubs. Plant the bulbs in masses 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Colchicums can flower indoors without soil or water which makes them ideal for potting or growing in decorative bowls. When grown this way they need to be planted in the garden as soon as flowering has finished.
Colchicums are hardy to zone 5.
Another wonderful fall blooming bulb is the showy crocus (Crocus speciosus). Showy crocus is reliable, easy to grow and great for naturalizing the landscape. Its sweetly scented flowers are dark violet blue with yellow anthers and deep orange stigmas. Excellent varieties include ‘Cassiope’ which produces aster blue flowers with yellow bases and ‘Conqueror’ with clear, deep blue flowers. It usually begins to flower in late September and continues through October. Grows 4-6 inches high.
Hardy to Zone 4.
While mums and aster will always be fall garden staples, fall blooming bulbs are often overlooked. They’re one of the best ways to add interest to the fall landscape. They’re easy to plant and easy care for. Planted in the right spot, fall bulbs will provide the garden with colorful flowers for years.