Daily Flower Candy: Colchicum ‘Waterlily’

These flowers may faintly resemble those of a Nymphaea, but here the resemblance of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ to an aquatic plant ends. Like other colchicums, the flowers of C. ‘Waterlily’ emerge naked, buxom and blushing from fecund, cinnamon-coloured bulbs each autumn. They prefer a well-drained soil, which remains moist rather than wet in summer, and full sun or light shade. Introduced in 1928 C. ‘Waterlily’ is unusual in that it has fully double petals. This makes the flowers rather top-heavy, so it’s best to grow them through ground cover plants, such as vinca, so that the blooms don’t collapse onto the ground and get spoilt.

Growing Colchicum 'Waterlily' in pots helps to protect the blooms from slugs and rainsplashes
Growing Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ in pots helps to protect the blooms from slugs and rainsplashes

I like to grow these luscious beauties in a terracotta pot, which allows me to display them in a prominent position when flowering and hide them away in spring as soon as the ungainly leaves emerge. A top-dressing of horticultural grit gives a modicum of protection from slugs, and prevents any compost splashing onto the petals. Like other colchicums, a faint chequerboard pattern can be seen in the petals when the light is behind them. The freshness and vitality of C. ‘Waterlily’, at a time when all else is waning, is very welcome and provides a wonderful contrast to crisp, fallen, autumn leaves.

The generously double flowers of Colchicum 'Waterlily' resemble a dahlia more than a waterlily
The generously double flowers of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ resemble a dahlia rather than a waterlily