Eazy Gardening

The Stunning Meadow Saffron: A Comprehensive Guide to Cultivation and Care

Plant: Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ (Meadow Saffron)

Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay,’ commonly known as meadow saffron, is an exquisite perennial plant native to Europe and Asia. This plant is a member of the Liliaceae family and is a close relative of both tulips and lilies.

The plant is renowned for its beautiful lavender flowers, which bloom in the fall when most flowers are fading away. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on the Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay,’ including its description, cultivation, and care.

Overview of the Plant

Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ is commonly referred to as meadow saffron, autumn crocus, or naked lady. It’s known as meadow saffron due to its resemblance to saffron, mainly because of its coloring.

The flowers, which bloom in the fall, are a beautiful lavender color, similar to the spice saffron.

Description of the Plant

The plant grows in the shape of a corm, which is an underground, bulb-like stem. During the summer, meadow saffron’s leaves die back while storing nutrients in the corm, which will sustain the plant during the winter.

In the fall, the plant produces its beautiful lavender flowers before the leaves reemerge. The blooms appear naked without any leaves on a stem, which gives the plant its common name, ‘naked lady.’

Characteristics of the Plant

Meadow saffron plants generally grow to a height of between four and eight inches. They begin blooming in September and continue until November, thriving in zones 5 to 9.

Meadow saffron’s flowers are an excellent late-season food resource for pollinators like bees and butterflies. However, the plant is highly toxic to humans and animals, with all its parts containing colchicine, a chemical that can cause severe side effects if ingested.

Plant Cultivation and Care

Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ is a low-maintenance plant that thrives in moist, well-drained soil. It does best in a spot that offers full sun or part shade.

Avoid planting the corms near trees or other plants that can inhibit their growth or compete for nutrients.

Preferred Growing Conditions

Meadow saffron thrives in different growing conditions, making it an ideal perennial for many gardeners. Ideally, the plant does well in regions with mild winters and hot summers, as long as they receive plenty of moisture.

In hotter regions, the plant flourishes in partially shaded areas. In colder regions, it prefers spots that receive plenty of sun to ensure that the soil doesn’t freeze.

Potential Pest and Disease Issues

In general, meadow saffron is a hardy plant that doesn’t suffer from many pest or disease problems. However, it’s susceptible to the same fungal infections that affect other bulbs.

Crown rot, bulb mites, and snails can also be issues for the plant. It’s essential to keep the growing area clean and free of debris that can provide cover for pests and diseases.

Planting and Maintenance Tips

Meadow saffron bulbs should be planted in the early fall, ensuring that they have at least six to eight weeks of growth before the first frost. The bulbs should be planted three inches deep and six inches apart, ensuring that the pointed end of the corm faces upwards.

Water the bulbs well after planting, ensuring that the soil is moist. Once the plants have flowered, they should not be disturbed.

The plant doesn’t require fertilizer since it stores its food in the corm.


Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ is a beautiful, low maintenance plant that provides beautiful lavender flowers in the fall. When planted properly and provided with ideal growing conditions, the plant will thrive season after season.

This comprehensive guide provides all the information necessary for gardeners to successfully grow and care for the meadow saffron. With this knowledge, gardeners can enjoy the beautiful late-season blooms that meadow saffron provides.

Plant Propagation Methods

Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay,’ commonly known as meadow saffron, can be propagated through both sexual and asexual methods.

Sexual Reproduction

Sexual reproduction for meadow saffron involves planting seed. The seeds ripen in the spring, and once ripe, fall to the ground, where they will germinate in the fall.

Sow the seeds as soon as possible after harvesting in a well-draining and fertile soil mixture. Cover the seeds lightly with soil, water them regularly, and provide them with plenty of light.

They should sprout within two to three weeks. Note that seed propagation can often produce genetic variability within the resulting plants.

Therefore, the resulting plants may differ from their parent plant in size, flower color, or other characteristics.

Asexual Reproduction

Asexual propagation is generally more reliable than sexual propagation when growing meadow saffron since it produces genetically identical copies of the parent plant. The two primary methods of asexual propagation used for meadow saffron are division and cormlets.


Division involves separating the corms of a mature plant into smaller pieces, each containing at least one growing point. This method should only be used to divide healthy, robust, and mature plants.

To divide meadow saffron, first, dig up the clump of corms in the summer after the leaves have yellowed and the plant is in a state of dormancy. Cut the corms into sections, each section at least 1-inch in diameter, and discard any sections with signs of disease or insect damage.

Replant each section promptly three inches deep and six inches apart.


Cormlets are tiny corms that can form alongside the parent plant each fall. These cormlets will often sprout their own leaves in the fall and begin to grow.

These cormlets can be carefully removed from the parent plant and replanted separately, just like seedlings, in the fall. Water them well after planting and give them ample light and care until they have established roots.

Plant Adaptations to Different Environments

Meadow saffron has a range of adaptations that enable it to survive and thrive in a variety of environmental conditions.

Soil Adaptations

Meadow saffron can grow in different soil types provided they are well-draining and fertile. Because the plant is susceptible to rotting, it thrives best in slightly acidic soils.

The corms can absorb nutrients and moisture during the growing season, so well-draining soil is essential to prevent the corms from becoming waterlogged and rotting.

Climate Adaptations

Meadow saffron is a cold-hardy plant, able to survive in climates that experience freezing temperatures. The corms can withstand temperatures as low as freezing, making meadow saffron optimal for northern climates.

The plant’s leaves die back in the summer to avoid the heat and conserve the stored energy for the upcoming blooming season.

Light Adaptations

Meadow saffron prefers sunny to partially shady environments, although it can grow in full shade. Sunlight is essential for the plant to produce enough energy needed to bloom.

However, in the hottest areas, the plant can tough through high temperatures by growing in the part shade to avoid too much direct sunlight and conserve moisture.

Drought Adaptations

One of the adaptations that meadow saffron has developed to survive is surviving overly dry conditions. During the growing season, it conserves water by producing shallow roots.

The corms can also store moisture and nutrients to help the plant survive during periods of drought. However, be careful not to overwater the plant, as the corms may rot.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ is an exquisite plant that can be propagated both through sexual and asexual reproduction. The plant has various adaptations that enable it to thrive in different environments, making it an excellent perennial for many gardeners.

By understanding the plant’s different propagation methods and adapting it to a favorable environment, gardeners can enjoy beautiful late-season blooms year after year, thanks to the meadow saffron.

Usage of the Plant in Indoor Settings

Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ can also be grown indoors, provided that the environment mimics the plant’s preferred growing conditions.

Potting Soil

The potting soil you use should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. A mix of compost, peat moss, perlite, and sand provides the plant with ample nutrients and drainage required for healthy growth.

A good recipe is a 2:1 ratio of potting soil to sand.


Provide the plant with plenty of light, preferably in a west- or south-facing window that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. A lack of sunlight can cause the leaves to yellow, and the plant may not flower.

However, be sure to avoid scorching sunlight or heat buildup that can damage the corms.


Water the plant only when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Overwatering can cause root rot, significantly if planted in standard pots.

During the dormant season, reduce watering to prevent the plant from rotting, as the corms can store enough nutrients and moisture to sustain the plant through this period.


Meadow saffron prefer temperatures ranging from 50 to 65F (10 to 18C) during growth and blooming season, and 32 to 50F (0 to 10C) during the dormant season.

Usage of the Plant in Outdoor Setting

Meadow saffron is a common perennial that is frequently used in outdoor settings. It can be used in a range of settings, including garden beds, containers, and borders.

Garden Beds

Plant meadow saffron in garden beds with well-draining soil. The corms should be planted no less than three inches deep and six inches apart to provide ample room for growth.

They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter, which allows them to store nutrients throughout the growing season. Meadow saffron looks fantastic paired with other fall-blooming plants in a garden bed.


Meadow saffron is also a perfect plant for container gardening. The small size of the plants makes it relatively easy to fit into small spaces, and the bright lavender flowers provide a pop of color in any garden.

Use a well-draining potting mix, add some slow-release fertilizer, water thoroughly, and place your container in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. When planting in containers, be sure to keep the corms at least one inch below the soil surface.


Meadow saffron is also an excellent plant for a colorful border, particularly when grown alongside other fall-blooming plants such as asters, mums, or ornamental peppers. Due to its short stature, meadow saffron provides an excellent low-growing border for taller plants that can add dimension and texture to an outdoor setting.

Final Thoughts

Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ (Meadow Saffron) is a versatile plant that can be used in both indoor and outdoor environments. When grown indoors, provide ample light, well-draining soil, and allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering.

In contrast, outdoor gardeners should pay close attention to soil and light requirements, as well as consider the plant’s size and blooming patterns when choosing the proper placement. By understanding the plant’s usage in various settings, gardeners can take full advantage of meadow saffron in either environment.

Toxicity of the Plant to


Horses, and


While meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’) is beautiful and low maintenance, it carries potent toxins that can cause harm to both humans and animals if ingested.


All parts of meadow saffron contain the toxin colchicine, which can cause severe side effects if ingested. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, organ damage, and central nervous system depression.

The plant can also cause irritation on the skin if touched, so it’s essential to wear gloves when handling it.


Meadow saffron is highly toxic to pets, including dogs and cats, who may come into contact with the plant while sniffing around. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody urine, and organ damage.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested any part of meadow saffron, seek veterinary attention immediately.


Meadow saffron, just like other Liliaceae family plants like lilies, are highly toxic to horses. The plant can cause severe gastrointestinal inflammation and damage, bleeding, and, in some cases, fatal organ failure if ingested.

Horses should be kept away from the plant, and any potential ingestion should be treated as a medical emergency. It’s worth noting that despite its toxicity, meadow saffron does have some medicinal properties.

Colchicine, which is extracted from the plant, can be effective in treating joint pain caused by gout and arthritis. However, this should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional, as the side effects can be severe and can worsen existing health problems.

Final Thoughts

While meadow saffron is an exquisite plant in both indoor and outdoor settings and has some medicinal properties, it is essential to be aware of its toxicity to both humans and animals. Children and curious pets should be kept away from the plant, and if ingested, immediate medical attention must be sought.

By observing appropriate safety practices around this plant, gardeners can still enjoy its beauty while keeping themselves and their family members and pets safe. In conclusion, Colchicum autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ (Meadow Saffron) is a beautiful and low-maintenance plant that can be propagated through both sexual and asexual methods.

The plant has various adaptations that enable it to thrive in different environments, making it an excellent perennial for many gardeners. It is essential to be aware of the plant’s toxicity to both humans and animals and to observe appropriate safety practices around it.

With this comprehensive guide and accompanying FAQs, gardeners can successfully grow and care for the meadow saffron while keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.



Can meadow saffron be grown indoors? Yes, meadow saffron can be grown indoors in well-draining soil, provided it receives enough sunlight and is kept away from too much heat.

2. Is meadow saffron a perennial plant?

Yes, meadow saffron is a perennial plant that can come back year after year with proper care. 3.

What is the preferred growing condition for meadow saffron? Meadow saffron prefers well-draining and fertile soil that receives ample sunlight.

4. Can meadow saffron be toxic to humans?

Yes, all parts of the plant contain colchicine, which can cause severe side effects if ingested. 5.

Is meadow saffron toxic to pets and horses? Yes, meadow saffron is highly toxic to pets and horses, and any potential ingestion should be treated as a medical emergency.

6. Can meadow saffron be used in a container garden?

Yes, meadow saffron is an excellent plant for container gardening, provided it receives enough sunlight and has well-draining soil.

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