The autumn crocus, which is also called poisonous crocus or meadow saffron, with around 50 species, belongs to the lily family and the so-called crocus family. There are perennial, perennial and herbaceous plants that look very similar to the crocus. They reach growth heights between 10 and 30 cm. As the name suggests, autumn crocus flowers relatively late, from September to November, and provide a few splashes of color during this relatively dull and colorless period. Among the bulbous plants that bloom in autumn, the autumn crocus is the only representative that is native to this country. This plant really comes into its own between low perennials, as underplanting for trees and shrubs, but also in stone or gravel gardens.


In the wild, the autumn crocus is mainly found in meadows and pastures. But they can also be cultivated in the garden. Sowing is also possible, for example, but this would be very tedious and would take up to 18 months.
The onion-like tubers are planted for the autumn crocus.

The best time to plant Colchicum autumnale is between July and November, in any case before the first persistent frosts. If you plant them between other trees, you should make sure that the other plants do not exert too much root pressure on the autumn crocus, as they can react very sensitively to this.

The tubers are planted in loose soil. To do this, planting holes are dug that are about three times as deep as the tuber is high, i.e. about 10-20 cm deep. The tubers are then placed in there with the tip pointing upwards and covered with soil. The planting distance between the individual bulbs should be about 10-25 cm. Finally, pour the whole thing well and keep it evenly moist.

The autumn crocus is often planted in meadows or lawns. For this purpose, one should resort to very early flowering varieties and those that are suitable for naturalising, as these will self-seed. The affected areas may only be mowed again when the autumn crocuses have almost dried up in spring. Gloves should always be worn when handling this plant.

location and soil

Autumn crocus Colchicum Autumnale prefers a sunny to partially shaded and wind-protected location. Because of this, they thrive particularly well in meadows, where they then spread relatively quickly. Once planted in a certain location, autumn crocus should be left there permanently. Incidentally, tubers cultivated indoors should also be placed in a light location at normal room temperatures.

The soil should be fresh, well-drained, nutritious, slightly calcareous, evenly moist and not too dry. Humus-sandy and loamy soils that are occasionally exposed to both shade and sun are ideal. A layer of mulch should be avoided with autumn crocus. Although mulching is beneficial for other plants, it severely weakens the plants of the autumn crocus.

watering and fertilizing

After planting, the autumn crocus must be watered thoroughly. But even after that, the soil should be kept evenly moist until autumn, provided it doesn’t rain for a long time. Drought is just as poorly tolerated as standing wetness. Fertilizing the autumn crocus is usually not necessary.


  • The inflorescences can be cut off after flowering.
  • Provided you don’t want this plant to spread or become wild.
  • If it does, the inflorescences must be left on the plant.
  • The leaves should remain standing while they are green.
  • They are only cut off when they are completely withered.
  • This is important because the tubers are still drawing nutrients from the green leaves.
  • These nutrients are stored by the tuber and strengthen them for the next budding.


Unlike many other bulbous plants, the bulbs of the autumn crocus do not have to be taken out of the ground in autumn, but can remain there throughout the winter. The plant withers completely in winter, ie it disappears into the ground so that it is no longer visible during the winter.

During the winter, the original tuber grows back in the soil and a new one is created. The same applies to the side shoots from which new tubers are also formed. Winter protection or covering with leaves or twigs is only advisable in particularly cold locations.


A special feature of this plant is that flowers and leaves never appear at the same time. While the flowers appear between September and November, the leaves do not form until the following spring and die off before the next bloom. The flower colors range from pink to purple. The appearance of the petals is similar to that of the autumn crocus. Over the years, the autumn crocus grows wild.
In winter, the plant retreats into the ground, where it forms new tubers.

The onion tuber, which is about 20 cm in size, sits underground and survives the winter in the ground. Between the beginning of May and the end of June, the leaves of this plant, which are up to 30 cm long, mature from this tuber.

At the same time, before the actual flowering period, the seed pods of the autumn crocus develop. The black-brown seeds have a sticky, white so-called appendage, which causes them to be spread by ants.
The autumn crocus has no natural enemies and is therefore spared any pests. Plant diseases are also generally not to be feared with this plant.

Onions as dry bloomers

  • Autumn crocus only develops roots after flowering
  • it can also be used as a ‘dry bloomer’
  • Place the onion in a flat container immediately after purchase
  • light eg on the window sill
  • Onion bulb blooms relatively quickly
  • Due to the lack of roots, the onion needs neither soil nor water
  • when the flowers have withered, the bulb begins to form roots
  • Accordingly, plant outside immediately after flowering

risk of confusion

Autumn crocuses sprout at the same time as the edible wild garlic . The leaves of both plants are very similar, which can lead to serious confusion. Wild garlic is also collected precisely when the autumn crocus is not in bloom, and they are often confused with one another.

Wild garlic and autumn crocus differ mainly in their scent. While the autumn crocus is odorless, wild garlic smells strongly of garlic . However, the autumn crocus also likes to grow in the wild exactly where wild garlic grows.

When collecting wild garlic, this typical smell of garlic sticks to your hands, and if you accidentally catch the leaves of the autumn crocus and smell them, it smells of garlic, but this smell comes exclusively from your hands, so that you usually don’t even notice the mix-up and Poisoning occurs, which ends fatally in most cases.


As already mentioned, the autumn crocus is very poisonous in all parts of the plant, with the most poisonous part of the plant being the flower, where the concentration of the poison is particularly high. This is due to the poison colchicine, which is contained in the entire plant, even in the dried plant. The autumn crocus is not only poisonous for humans, but also for numerous animals, including dogs, cats, rodents, goats, sheep, cows and horses, but also for birds.

For example, some of these animals may contain dried crocus in their feed (hay). The plant can also pose a danger to children, for example during the hay harvest, when the children may be playing in the hay.

To avoid any danger, it is advisable not to grow it in the garden, especially if small children or pets are likely to come into contact with this plant, at least until the children are older. It was not for nothing that the autumn crocus was voted poisonous plant of the year in 2010. If you would rather do without this plant because of its toxicity, autumn crocuses, for example, are an alternative to autumn crocuses.

Popular autumn crocus for the garden

Colchicum autumnale ‘The Gigant’
This autumn crocus forms a veritable bouquet of flowers from just one bulb. As a result, it not only comes into its own in the garden, but also as a ‘dry flowering plant’ in a beautiful bowl on the windowsill. The flower color is pink and the growth height is between 20 and 25 cm. The tuber should be planted immediately after purchase. Planting time is from August to November.

Colchicum autumnale ‘Waterlily’
With its lush and densely filled, dusky pink-purple flowers, this robust variety is reminiscent of water lilies. This variety is also very suitable as a ‘dry bloomer’. It can be planted from August to November and flowers from September to October. The growth height of this variety is between 15 and 20 cm.

Colchicum autumnale ‘Album Flora Plena’
Up to eight pure white, double flowers develop from one bulb of this autumn crocus. The 3-5 leaves are glossy and semi-erect. This variety flowers from September to October and is about 15 to 20 cm high.

Colchicum autumnale ‘Minor’
This autumn crocus produces bright light pink flowers. These are radial and unfilled. It is only 10 cm high and is a popular variety for the rock garden.

Colchicum bornmülleri – giant
autumn crocus Colchicum bornmülleri is a stately and vigorous but also very early autumn crocus. Its flowers are pink-purple with a pure white throat. It blooms relatively early from the end of August to September and is about 20 cm high.

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