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.
A group of Autumn flowering plants, normally known as bulbs but they are actually corms, the Autumn crocus - Colchicum autumnale - are good for early autumn colour in the garden. They are also known as Saffron Crocus, or Meadow Saffron and are especially suited to planting under trees or shrubs in the shrub border.
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!
The flowering season for Colchicum Autumn Crocus is early autumn / winter. The flowers which are borne on naked plants with no foliage - hence the nick name 'Naked Ladies' - are then followed by large green leaves - not unlike a Cos lettuce!
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.
Subtlety goes out of the window with Nerines, but what an amazing show of shocking pink flowers - looking so delicate but so hardy - the Nerine bowdenii bulbs give us right at the doorway to Winter!
The bright pink colours of the Nerine group are the more vivid because of the flowering time - when most things have 'gone away' for the winter months.
Nerine bowdenii is by far the most showy of all Nerines with its gaudy ostentatious show of pink in November - sometimes as early as October.
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.
Amaryllis belladonna are autumn flowering, and will lighten up this time of year with its delicate colours.
Sometimes confused with Nerines - which are similar but different. Often referred to as Belladonna Lily, it is not a lily, nor is it a member of the lily family, but Amarilliaceae.
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 Sternbergia has been awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS for its outstanding qualities and durability.
Plant 12 cm to 15 cm down in well drained soil, it loves full sun and it is ideal for borders and containers.
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!
Cyclamen coum Hybrids are a dainty group of flowering tuberous plants - though they are often referred to as cyclamen coum bulbs - with flowers ranging from white, through various pinks and into deepest carmine red. They tend to self seed themselves, so be careful of any 'weeding' you may do around the plant. Do not hoe, or when they are dormant, you cane accidentally scalp the top of the corm - taking off the flower buds in the process.
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.
Schizostylis is a superb autumn - early winter - flowering Rhizome - bulb - that will fit into many places in most gardens.
The flowers are generally a delicate pink or orange red in hue, and seem to be completely at ease with whatever autumn weather is thrown at them. The flowering clusters look so fragile as to be non-hardy, but hardy they are, and should find a place in any border or garden bed.
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.
Crocosmia grow from corms - though often referred to a Crocosmia bulbs - and have the classical corm habit of producing a new corm - for the next year on top of the current corm which dies off.
The flower colour of Crocosmia bulbs ranges from light yellow - cream almost - through to the deepest red. Foliage is in varying shades of green, with bronze foliage on a few varieties.
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!
There are a wide range of Anemones in this Genus - from the Buttercup family of Ranunculaceae. Here we are interested only in those that are produced from tubers or those anemones that have rhizomatous roots.
The late flowering perennial Japanese Anemones, have neither tubers or rhizomes, and are fibrous rooted herbaceous perennials, so are not included in this section.
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.
Dahlias are grouped into categories - for the enthusiast - by the types of flower heads - the larges of which can be an awesome 10in across! At the other end of the scale are the Pompom types that are simply an inch or so across. There are huge size differences within the same group or classification - with some of the normally petite Pompoms being 4-5in across.
From the images above, the classification from left to right would be....... Waterlily | Pompom | Semi Cactus | Collerette | Collerette | Anemone.
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!
Begonias are grown from tubers, and can be used either indoors or in the garden once all signs of frosts have disappeared. There are several types of Begonias that can be grown from tubers. There are also Begonias that are grown on a fibrous root system - but not for this section on bulbous plants.
The range of flower types and flower colours available, make this an important group of plants for the garden in particular.
Iris ensata 'Sansation'
Leucojum vernum - the Snowpake