Favourite Fall Flowering Bulbs to Plant for a Beautiful Garden
As you stroll through your neighbourhood from late August through October, you may see some new cheerful flowers popping up. These beautiful blooms are from autumn flowering Crocus and Colchicum. Like a breath of fresh air, they bring a fascinating and colourful addition to your garden, when many perennials are starting to wind down for Fall. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a new one, these easy-to-grow bulbs are a perfect addition to your collection.
To start with, fall flowering crocus are different from their spring flowering counterparts. Their leaves emerge in the spring to generate nutrients, and by the end of spring, they go dormant. Then in late summer to early autumn, you will see their amazing blooms bursting forth from the soil. Fall flowering crocuses feature a range of coloured petals like purple, blue, and white that add a unique touch to your garden.
Crocus sativus – Saffron Crocus
Yes, the tasty gourmet spice saffron comes from the petite fall flowering Crocus sativus. The joy from growing these bulbs is two-fold as the blooms produce the spice saffron, one of the most expensive spices, and you can enjoy the brightly coloured blooms before harvesting. These special crocuses are hardy to zone 4 and grow to a height of 10 cm (4”). Saffron is harvested from the stigmas of the saffron crocus flowers. Stigmas are the red threads that protrude from the centre of the flower. These bulbs bloom in the fall, usually in late September to October. When fully open, carefully pluck the stigmas from the flowers using tweezers or dry fingers. Each stigma should be red and contain no white or yellow parts. Dry the harvested stigmas in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Once dried, they can be stored in an airtight container ready to enhance your gourmet dishes. Try saffron in your favourite paella or risotto recipes.
Crocus zonatus – Fall Flowering Crocus
Another fall flowering favourite is Crocus zonatus. This species of crocus has cheerful coral-pink blooms that brighten up every nook and corner of your garden. Crocus zontaus grows to 12 cm (5”) in height and is hardy to zone 4. Just like all fall flowering crocus the green foliage sprouts up in early spring and goes dormant during summer. Then in late summer to fall, the blooms suddenly appear.
Similarly, colchicum, the autumn crocus, blooms with deep pink and purple flowers in the fall. The elongated blooms emerge from the ground without any foliage for an early fall season show. Then in the spring, wide strappy foliage appears to generate nutrients for the blooms to come. Do you love crocus-shaped blooms but have garden visitors? No problem, colchicum are deer, rabbit, and squirrel resistant, so you can enjoy the blooms without any protective barriers.
Colchicum The Giant
Elegant lavender blooms appearing out of the soil seem like a fairy tale. But these fall flowering beauties will spring up in the fall when you least expect it and carpet your garden with blossoms. Colchicum the Giant is a wonderful addition to add some fun and mystery to your garden spaces. Growing to 20 cm (8”) and hardy to zone 5, The Giant is ideal for planting as edging or in mixed containers.
Colchicum Waterlily is an attractive, old-fashioned fall flowering bulb. It produces huge show-stopping double lilac blooms in the late summer to early fall. These brightly coloured showy flowers make a spectacular display in the garden. The Colchicum Waterlily can tolerate part shade, but it does best when grown in full sun areas. It can reach up to 20 cm (8”) high and is a popular choice for gardeners who are looking to add some late-season colour to their beds and borders.
Caring for your Fall Flowering Bulbs
Where to Plant
Fall flowering bulbs prefer full sun, so select a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. These bulbs prefer well-draining, slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6 and 8. You can amend the soil with compost to improve the nutrients and drainage. Ensure good drainage to prevent waterlogged soil, as these plants do not tolerate wet feet all winter long.
How to Plant
Fall flowering bulbs are to be planted in the autumn. The bulbs will usually arrive in local garden centres in early to mid-September. Immediately plant your fall flowering bulbs in the fall. This will allow them to establish roots before the winter cold sets in. Plant the bulbs 10 cm (4”) deep and space them about 10 cm (4”) apart. Place the bulbs with the pointed end facing up. Water the newly planted bulbs thoroughly after planting.
Caring for Your Fall Bulbs Throughout the Year
In cold climates, the bulbs may benefit from a layer of mulch to protect them from extreme cold during the winter. During the spring, you can fertilize fall-flowering bulbs with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer when new growth starts to emerge. These bulbs are quick to naturalize, so they will multiply and come back year after year with more blooms. So, it is important to allow the foliage to grow and then naturally die back in the spring. The nutrients generated by the foliage will produce the upcoming flowers and more bulbs. When you see the foliage start to get over-crowded, every 3-4 years, you may need to divide the clump of bulbs. The ideal time for dividing is in late spring after the foliage has turned yellow and the bulb is ready to go dormant for summer. In the fall, remove spent flowers. These fall flowering bulbs are easy to grow and enjoy.
Incorporating fall flowering crocus and colchicum into your garden is a sure-shot way to add vivid colours and fresh blooms to the fall season. Planting these bulbs in fall will ensure a lovely display of crocus and colchicums next fall, and for years to come. So, as you are in the garden, plan where you can add some fall highlights and add these bulbs to your wish list for your garden centre visits in the fall.