GROWING WATER LILLIES

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NO DIRT REQUIRED…

Colchicums, sometimes erroneously called Autumn Crocus, are not related to crocus (the iris family), but are part of the lily family. The variety ‘Water Lily’ or ‘Waterlily’ dates back to 1928. Colchicums are unusual because they can be forced into bloom on a windowsill, without soil or water! Just put them in a bright location, and plant them outdoors after they have finished flowering. They make amazing gifts for those with limited garden space or expertise.

‘Water Lily’ Colchicums are identifiable by their fully double, lavender-pink blossoms which bloom in the fall and resemble water lilies. They are one of the earliest colchicum varieties to flower, and generally bloom in late September to early October in zone 5. They are hardy to zone 4, and prefer a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil. The clusters of flowers grow 6”-8” tall, and are followed in spring by broad, 7”-9” leaves which turn yellow by July. For best results, colchicums should be planted in early fall. Plant the corms 3” deep and 6” apart, and fertilize with an organic bulb food. Fertilize again in the spring when the foliage appears; do not cut back the foliage until it turns yellow.

Dig colchicum clumps up every 3-4 years when they are dormant during the summer, and replant them for best flowering results. Corms are deer, squirrel and rabbit resistant, and have no serious insect or disease problems although they are sometimes bothered by snails and slugs. The colchicum corm contains colchicine, which is an alkaloid used in the pharmaceutical industry and in plant genetics. Contact with the corm may cause skin irritation; gloves are recommended when handling. All parts of the plant should be considered toxic since they can cause nausea, vomiting and kidney damage.

Colchicum ‘Giant’

Colchicums, sometimes erroneously called Autumn Crocus, are not related to crocus (which are in the iris family), but are members of the lily family. The variety ‘Giant’, nearly 100 years old, is a hybrid cross between Colchicum giganteum and Colchicum bornmuelleri, resulting in larger blooms than most other Colchicum varieties. Their clusters of single flowers are held erect, above the leafless stems.

Colchicums are unusual because they can be forced into bloom on a windowsill, without soil or water! Just put them in a bright location, and plant them outdoors after they have finished flowering. ‘Giant’ Colchicums are identifiable by their showy autumn display of large, rosy-lilac blossoms which have white bases. They generally bloom in October in zone 5. They prefer a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil. The clusters of large flowers grow 10” tall, and are followed in spring by broad, 7”-9” leaves which turn yellow by July.

For best results, colchicums should be planted in early fall. Plant the corms 3” deep and 6”-12” apart, and fertilize with an organic bulb food. Fertilize again in the spring when the foliage appears; do not cut back the foliage until it turns yellow. Dig colchicum clumps up every 3-4 years when they are dormant during the summer, and replant them for best flowering results. Corms are deer, squirrel and rabbit resistant, and have no serious insect or disease problems although they are sometimes bothered by snails and slugs.

The colchicum corm contains colchicine, which is an alkaloid used in the pharmaceutical industry and in plant genetics. Contact with the corm may cause skin irritation; gloves are recommended when handling. All parts of the plant should be considered toxic since they can cause nausea, vomiting and kidney damage.