Not a crocus

Just now I have two little bulbs in flower that look like a crocus. And they’re not colchicums either. They are sternbergias.

The genus sternbergia contains eight species, all found around the Mediterranean or in central and southwest Asia. The flowers are generally yellow (S. candida has white flowers) and most flower in the autumn or early winter (again there are two exceptions, S. vernalis and S candida, which are spring flowering).  In the garden, sternbergias require a well drained soil in full sun – the sort of conditions where alpines would thrive.

Sternbergia lutea is the one most commonly offered for sale, and grows to about six inches.

Sternbergia lutea - 2015

Sternbergia sicula is similar but has smaller flowers and narrower leaves, although some growers claim it is a better bloomer.

Sternbergia sicula - 2015

Even smaller, and sometimes available from a specialist nursery is Sternbergia colchiciflora.

Sternbergia colchiciflora - 2014

Although the first two will naturalise, as anyone who has visited Greece in the autumn will have seen, a spot at the front of a rockery or in a raised bed is probably better for gardens in the UK.

2 thoughts on “Not a crocus

  1. I saw a mass of sternbergia lutea in a border along a front house wall the other day, looked amazing. Have planted some this weekend in similar location, fingers crossed


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