Plant Guide

Colchicum autumnale

Autumn crocus, naked ladies, meadow saffron

Herbaceous perennial with narrow strap-shaped leaves, flowering in autumn with lilac crocus-like flowers (5-8 cm wide). The leaves appear in spring and die down before the flowers emerge. All parts are poisonous on ingestion and contact with the skin may cause irritations.

Originally from Central and South-East Europe, Colchicum autumnale is naturalised in many countries, including New Zealand. Although the flowers look very similar to those of the Crocus, Colchicum autumnale and Crocus belong to different plant families and are only distantly related in a genetic sense. Apart from a difference in flowering time, you can also tell them apart by the fact that a crocus has three stamens and an autumn crocus has six.

Prefers a sunny, sheltered position in well-draining soil. Poor drainage may result in corm rot. In hot climates, partial shade is best. Can be propagated by dividing the corms when they are dormant during winter. Frost hardy (zones 5-9).

Lovely for flower display in woodland gardens or in containers. When selecting a spot, consider the fact that the leaves will turn yellow and die in summer, so you may not wish to give it the prime position in your garden, but one to give you a sweet surprise when walking past in autumn. The flower stems tend to be somewhat floppy, and possibly surrounding ground-covering plants could offer support. 

Type of plant

Herbaceous - Perennial


15-30 cm tall

Landscape Use

flower display in containers, woodland gardens or the front of borders.


  • Temperature: Hardy
  • Light: Medium High
  • Moisture: Medium
  • Soil: Medium
  • Wind tolerance: Low