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Portraits of Unusual Alpines: Crocus goulimyi

November 10, 2022
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Crocus goulimyi

Crocus goulimyi is one of a group of very special autumn flowering species that are not often seen in cultivation. In fact, there are more autumn than spring flowering crocus species. But most of those which we commonly grow in our gardens are from the latter group. They are essential harbingers of spring, along with snowdrops and daffodils.

So, you will find fewer autumn flowering  crocuses in bulb catalogues and garden centres, but they can be found. You are most likely to come across C. speciosus, an excellent vigorous species that increases freely in most gardens. The very distinct C. banaticus may also be encountered. It too can be cultivated successfully outside and responds well to our damp climate. Some others (Crocus hadriaticus, C. boryi, C. niveus, among others) are more difficult without protection. But they are excellent in pots moved under glass for the summer to protect the dormant bulbs from excess moisture.

Crocus goulimyi in a Norfolk garden - credit Razvan Chisu

Crocus goulimyi in a Norfolk garden - credit Razvan Chisu

I am focusing on Crocus goulimyi because it is my favourite autumn-flowering crocus. As the photographs reproduced here show, it is a very elegant plant with long-tubed, bowl shaped flowers borne with the emerging leaves. They are generally fairly uniform in colour, mid-violet, paler inside, with contrasting golden anthers and styles. But there are darker and paler forms around, and most beautiful pure creamy whites which are aggregated under the collective name C. goulimyi ‘Albus’ or ‘Leucanthus’. The much sought after C. goulimyi ‘Mani White’ is the most frequently seen of these.

Crocus goulimyi in the wild

I have seen C. goulimyi in all shades in the wild in the Peloponnese peninsula  of southern Greece, to which the species is endemic. A glorious site, as I hope the pictures shown here indicate. Although no picture can equal the joy of actually seeing hundreds or even thousands of fully open flowers basking in the Greek sunshine on a late autumn day.

A selection of wild forms of Crocus goulimyi in the Peloponnese - credit Razvan Chisu

A selection of wild forms of Crocus goulimyi in the Peloponnese - credit Razvan Chisu


Crocus goulimyi is very easy to grow in a pot protected under glass during wet summer periods. It is less easy, but by no means impossible in the open garden, especially in areas with a reasonably dry and sunny climate. Because of the length of the slender flower tubes avoid windy sites.

Whether in a container or in the garden it is important to  plant the bulbs into freely drained compost. This should  preferably be soil-based as the bulbs are less likely to prosper in organic-based material.

I plant my pots of C. goulimyi, along with other autumn-flowering species, in September and stand them on sand in an unheated garden frame. I remove the frame lights soon afterwards when heavy rain is expected. This starts them into growth, simulating the first autumn rains in their natural home following the long Mediterranean summer. When they are well soaked I replace the frame lights and generally do not need to remove them again during the growing season. The pots are kept dry until re-potting in September.

Crocus goulimyi Agia Sofia MELJ9652_exh_Lee+Julie Martin_PC_88364838749166



Crocus goulimyi corms increase quite freely so it is easy to build up a stock fairly quickly. This is the only reliable way of increasing particular forms such as ‘Mani White’.

Seed is an alternative and it is usually freely set. The papery capsules, out of which the seeds fall only too easily, are borne at soil level. You can either sow the seed as soon as it is released, or keep it dry until the following spring. Cover it lightly with a little compost, then grit. Water well and either place outside in a semi-shaded place or in a frame.

You should get flowering-size corms in 2-3 years, but only if you remember to split and re-pot each year. If you are very lucky groups of C. goulimyi in the open garden may self-seed. The resulting clumps are sure to be admired by knowledgeable visiting gardeners.

Author: John Good
John Good

John Good