Colchicum

Common name: Meadow saffron

The name Colchicum comes from Colchis, an area that borders the Black sea.

Colchicum speciosum is frequently confused with autumn-flowering crocuses.

The simplest method of distinguishing between the two is to count the stamens.

Colchicums have six stamens in two ranks, crocuses have only three.

The corms also differ in so far as crocus corms are usually rounded and have a light brown papery skin covering a hard creamy corm, whereas those of the colchicum are humped on one side and straight on the other.

Pests and Diseases:

They are generally trouble free but occasionally the corm and leaves are eaten by slugs, and grey mould can sometimes be a problem.

Cultivation

Week 14: Apply a high nitrogen foliar feed to the leaves to improve growth.

Every three or four years or so, lift corms.Circa Week 26.

Do this after the leaves have died back, but before start of re-growth resumes.

Divide the clumps, and plant immediately in a in a sheltered site that receives afternoon sunshine.

Plant in groups of five or six 100-150mm (4”-6”) apart, and to a depth twice the size of the corm.

Ensure the position of bulbs is clearly marked to avoid damaging the emerging flower buds when weeding or hoeing later.

Colchicums prefer a sheltered site that gets afternoon sunshine, deep shade restricts flowering.

Heavy soils should be prepared to improve drainage by digging in coarse grit and well rotted garden compost.

Conversely, poor soil will need to be mulched with well-rotted manure or garden compost.

Finally apply a top-dressing of a balanced fertiliser and/or well-rotted manure.

When clearing away the withered remains take great care, all parts of the plant are poisonous.

Either wear gloves or thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.

Week 28: Collect seed when ripe, sow immediately into pots / trays of seed compost and place in a cold frame.

Germination can take from 6 to 18 months, and will take six years to produce a flower.

Plant out the small cormlets in a nursery bed a year after germination, and grow on for a few years till they reach flowering size.

Week 32: (onwards) Plant newly purchased corms in groups 75mm deep.

All parts of the colchicum plant are highly toxic and may be fatal if eaten.

Wash hands after handling.





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