This list of autumn flowering bulbs was never intended to be a ‘top Ten’ but after I had collated my list of good autumn flowering bulbs, I see that is the way it has gone! I am sure that I will get an email or so with a few omissions. In keeping with the rest of the section about flowering bulbs, I have included a few tuberous plants.
Spring and summer is the time normally associated with flowering bulbs, but autumn can also be an important time for autumn bulbs. The bulbs (and tubers) mentioned here will all extend the garden colour by a few months. The only problem being, that if you are reading this in the autumn, then you are generally too late to do anything about it for this year.
Autumn flowering bulbs should have been planted back in the early summer. Autumn bulbs simply refers to the flowering time - not the planting time. But of course, you can buy - and plant - autumn bulbs in pots from the garden centre when in full flower - a colourful sight for autumn sales of plants! Summer is their period of dormancy, unlike the spring flowering bulbs which have their dormancy in the autumn. (More of this later!)
Some of the bulbs listed will flower a little earlier than autumn – maybe even mid-summer, but all shown here will also be happy to show off their colour even into the first frosts.
None of these late flowering gems should be mistaken for autumn ‘planted’ bulbs. Those planted in the autumn are for spring flower. There are exceptions of course – one of which is the Colchicum group. Colchicums are normally sold in garden centres during the autumn months – often flowering direct from the bare bulb. (It makes commercial sense for the supplier. Why go to the bother and expense of planting these in pots, when they can be sold as impulse sales with a few flower buds showing during the autumn!)
The list is basically divided into two sections. The first being the true hardy garden bulbs and the second being of those few tender tubers which also do much to extend our season of colour.
Autumn Crocus are members of the Iris family - Iridaceae
These are the ones that spring to mind, yet also cause so much confusion. The confusion arises out of the fact that Colchicums are commonly called Autumn Crocus. True autumn flowering Crocus include, Crocus speciosa – of which there are several types; Crocus goulimyi; Crocus longiflorum.
Colchicum are members of the Lily family – Liliaceae
Colchicum autumnale and Colchicum speciosum are the two main groups, with many differently coloured cultivars and names to choose from C. Water Lily is a favourite of these autumn bulbs. All of these are best if planted in a situation where they will not be battered too much – in particular rained upon!
Planting of Nerines will give a great autumn flowering blaze of pink, and shocking pink at that. A drift of these will brighten up any shaded spot – but be aware of the callers who want to know what they are. That is how spectacular they are.
The hardy Amarylis – not the ones that we grow indoors - look similar to the Nerines, but so different in colours. They are not the show-offs that the Nerines are, but the colour shades are much more subtle.
Sternbergia is often confused with being an autumn crocus, but it is not.
Sometimes called the autumn daffodil.
It is not a daffodil but is actually the same family as the Amaryllis – Amaryllidaceae. Gorgeous hardy crocus-like flowers on these autumn bulbs - bright gold.
The ‘hederifolium’ part of the name is important, for its cousin – Cyclamen coum – is winter flowering. Cyclamen hederifolium flowers before the leaves show through in a brigh low carpet – if you plant enough of them!
The Kafir Lily – a rhyzomatous perennial - should be planted in every garden. (I like this plant). Gorgeouse pink to cerise flowers – white even if you want – well into the autumn and a great contrast peeping through a like carpet of leaves, but better at the front of a border.
Crocosmia – Montbretia as was.
For the widest range of colours in a group of autumn flowering corms, look no further than these. Yes Crocsmia can form slightly untidy foliage clumps, but here we talk of brightening u0p the autumn months. Crocosmia will do just that! What’s more they will be flowering from late summer and well into the autumn and early winter oft times.
So good for the autumn garden – and liking a relativel shaded spot as well! Anenome blade is available in bright – almost luminous blue – or pure white. Pink also if you must!
The Dahlias are of course tubers, and associated with summer and gaudy colours oft with ostentatious blooms. They will flower well into the autumn – especially if you take off the dead blomes en route through the late summer.
Tuberous Begonias are often overlooked for a late display of colour – especially for the window boxes and hanging baskets. You will have to judge the first frost, and do something to ensure its longevity!