Three fall-blooming bulbs to jazz up our September gardens

Don’t miss out: These autumn bloomers are only available in nurseries for a few weeks in the fall.

It has always puzzled me that there are plants that bloom in the fall or, stranger yet, in the winter.

It seems so out of sync with the rhythms of nature, but hey — while I may not understand the “grand plan,” I am sure as heck going to take advantage of these little beauties and enjoy them in my garden.

Here are three bulbs that bloom this time of year and can usually only be found and planted in the fall.

Crocus sativus: For most gardeners, when we think of crocus our visions are transported to early February when these little harbingers of spring pop up in lawns and rockeries that delight us to no end. Their blooms are short-lived but a colorful treat after a long and dark winter.

I have several drifts of them that come back every year with absolutely no intervention on my part. Except for pesky squirrels, nothing bothers them, and they will naturalize in our gardens and come back for years and years. Now imagine this same scene only in the fall.

Crocus sativus, commonly called saffron crocus, has attractive purple petals with yellow stamens and a three-part red-orange stigma. It is the stigma that is harvested and becomes the highly prized saffron. I once thought it would be a great idea for a retirement income to plant a bunch of these bulbs and, after they multiplied, I would collect the saffron. Saffron sells for around $500 an ounce — all I could see was dollar signs.

Unfortunately, it takes around 4,000 flowers to make an ounce, so that idea was quickly dismissed (especially considering that after harvesting 4,000 stigmas, I would probably not be able to stand upright again). You can find fall-blooming crocus at garden centers this time of year, with all the other spring-blooming tulips and daffodils.

Colchicum autumnale: Colchicums are not crocus at all, but the blooms resemble them, hence the common name autumn crocus. You can find these bulbs in the nursery, often located on the checkout counter for impulse sales, and as often as not in full bloom (with no roots or dirt).

Plant them now and they will bloom immediately, followed by 10-inch-long lanceolate leaves that stick around until next summer when they go dormant and disappear until the flowers pop back up in September. It is a bit of a garden oddity, but a fun treat for this time of year.

As an added bit of trivia, colchicine is extracted from the bulbs and used to treat gout. It is also used in the horticulture field for creating polyploidy, which is part of the technique in developing our seedless water melons.

Cyclamen hederifolium: These little 4- to 5-inch tall hardy perennials send up white or pink blooms this time of year, followed by ivy-like foliage that is heavily reticulated and consequently a very interesting addition to the garden. They prefer some shade and will slowly form drifts under trees.

After the flowers set seeds, the stem coils up like a spring and, when the seeds are ripe, they are thrown several feet from the mother plant. There also seems to be some symbiotic relationship with ants, whereby the ants also spread the seeds around. September is when you can usually find cyclamen blooming in 4-inch pots in the nursery.

These fall bloomers are usually only available for a few weeks in the fall, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to interject some color into the garden. You will be rewarded for years to come.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Fall interest and winter birds

Attend two free classes next weekend: A class on fall and winter interest is 10 a.m. Sept. 22 and a class on attracting birds in winter is 11 a.m. Sept. 23 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit

Talk to us

More in Life

Isabella Corsaro (Heidi), Kate Jaeger (Gretl), Jonas Winburn (Günter) and Kevin Vortmann (Hansel) star in Village Theatre’s production of “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter.” (Mark Kitaoka / Village Theatre)
Village Theatre back in 2022 with lineup that includes ‘Raisin’

The four-show season, which begins in February 2022, is intended to reflect perseverance and the road to recovery, Village’s artistic director says.

Filmmaker Daniel A. Cardenas, of Everett, in a hop field in the Yakima Valley in 2014. (Bakerbuilt Works)
Everett filmmaker’s documentary does deep dive into hops

“Hopped Up: How Yakima Valley Changed Craft Beer Forever” won an award at this year’s Ellensburg Film Festival.

One of the Jetty Island ferry captains waits for boarders as the ferry begins operations for the summer on Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2016 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
All aboard: Jetty Island ferry reservations are available

The passenger ferry service from the Port of Everett to a sandy bar runs July 5 through Labor Day.

Taleah Burr (left right), Laurel Harrison, Caitlin Hitchner and Kelsey Jinneman-Fairbanks are four teachers at Challenger Elementary in Everett got Roman numeral '4' tattoos to represent their "Core 4" solidarity the day after their first year teaching in 2014.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Inked: Third-grade teachers tattoo their solidarity IV-ever

Most of their Challenger Elementary students don’t know about the hidden badge of teacher pride.

5 Rights Brewing in Marysville recently built the Second Street Community Pavilion, which will be open year-round and have electricity and heat. (5 Rights Brewing)
Drink This: 5 Rights now has year-round outdoor seating

The new Second Street Community Pavilion is just one way the Marysville brewery continues to expand.

Public Health Essentials! (Snohomish Health District)
Four things we can all do to keep our forward momentum

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

Holly Aprecio is Linda Ronstadt in Just One Look’s Linda Ronstadt tribute. The band is set to perform June 19 at the Historic Everett Theatre. (Just One Look)
Tickets for sale in Snohomish County and around the region

The listings include Historic Everett Theatre, Edmonds Center for the Arts and Thumbnail Theater shows.

The F Street Project is scheduled to perform June 26 at the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. (YouTube)
All about music: Schedule of concerts around Snohomish County

The listings include Historic Everett Theatre, Edmonds Center for the Arts and Thumbnail Theater shows.

Kermet Apio will perform stand-up at the Best of Seattle Comedy Competition in Everett on Aug. 17. (YouTube)
Theater, dance and comedy shows around Snohomish County

The listings include Historic Everett Theatre, Edmonds Center for the Arts and Thumbnail Theater shows.

Most Read