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Gardening 101: Crocus

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Gardening 101: Crocus

February 14, 2020

Crocus, Crocus: “The Early Riser”

What will heaven look like when we get there? Emily Dickinson predicted a springtime Resurrection, with “the feet of people walking home” amid clumps of crocuses. We’ll be in sandals.

Above: For now we thank those tiny cup-shaped flowers for making late February and early March bearable. Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.
Above: Most crocuses bloom in spring; plant their corms in the autumn in clumps of 12 or more. If they like your soil, crocuses will naturalize and, as the years pass, spread across your early lawn like a pond of purple and yellow and white. Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.
A bunch of white crocuses on the bulb (in the foreground) add delicacy to florist Emily Thompson&#8\2\17;s picks for an early spring arrangement. for more, see DIY Floral Arrangement: Magnolias and More, with Emily Thompson. Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.
Above: A bunch of white crocuses on the bulb (in the foreground) add delicacy to florist Emily Thompson’s picks for an early spring arrangement. for more, see DIY Floral Arrangement: Magnolias and More, with Emily Thompson. Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

We love the autumn version–Crocus sativus–too. Named for the ancient Hebrew word for “saffron,” Crocus sativus produces the spice; each flower has the red threadlike stigmas you pay for so dearly at the market (it takes nearly 4,000 flowers to produce an ounce of saffron).

Above: Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.

Cheat Sheet:

  • Perennial: Grows from bulb-like corms.
  • Hardy: Zones 6-8 (and 9 in the West).
  • Pair it with plants that can live in snow, such as winter jasmine or snowdrops.

Keep It Alive:

  • If overeager buds appear in January, cover with milk cartons to protect from cold.
  • Partial to full sun.
  • Water in fall if beds are very dry.
Above: Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.

If you want to harvest your own saffron, pick Crocus sativus flowers on a sunny day and then let the stigmas dry before using them in recipes.

Above: Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.

N.B.: For more about spring flowers, our Garden Design 101 guides including our primer on Bulbs & Tubers 101 can help answer your questions:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for crocus with our Crocus: A Field Guide.

Interested in other bulbs and tubers for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various bulbs and tubers with our Bulbs & Tubers: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various perennial plants with our Perennials: A Field Guide.

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