Scientific Name: Croceae
Common Name: Crocus
Common Species/Varieties: Dutch Crocus, Early Crocus, Golden Crocus
Common Colors: Purple, White, Yellow
Plant Type: Flower, from bulb
Annual or Perennial: Perennial
Hardiness Zone: 3-8 USDA
Self-Seeding: No, but they can self-propagate if left in the ground
Bloom Season: Spring
Grows Best In: Full Sun or shade
Fun Fact: Saffron spice is collected painstakingly from the stigma of the once-per-year blooming C. sativus, the Saffron Crocus – which blooms in the Fall!
Crocus is among the first of the Spring plants to bloom. Just behind Hellebore and neck-in-neck with Snowdrop, Crocus will add its sunny and cheerful blooms to your landscape even in snow-covered conditions – just make sure to protect any already open flowers from snow. There are over 90 variations of Crocus, but perhaps the most famous is the C. sativus – the Saffron Crocus. Just one ounce of Saffron requires over 4,000 stigma from this flower! Crocus is typically found in woodland or meadow settings and can be found from sea level to tall mountains. Crocus is believed to represent cheerfulness and youthfulness, which could stem from the fact the joy it brings as one of the earliest signs of Spring.
CROCUS PLANTING AND STORAGE:
Crocuses begin as bulbs, and those bulbs are planted in the Fall. You can plant tulip bulbs directly into your garden (they make lovely path liners), or into a pot stored in a cool (but not cold) dry, dark place through Winter. A good example would be an unheated garage, or shed, or a cold frame. The idea is to keep them cool but safe from rapid changes in temperature. Crocus bulbs can also be stored in a way that prepares them for being “forced” in glass vessels in Spring. Place them in a container and add soil, then a layer of bulbs stored close together but not touching, add a layer of soil deep enough to allow room for roots to begin to develop, and then plant another row, and so forth until all of your bulbs are planted. Moisten the soil and keep it from drying out, but do not over-water. Storing Crocus bulbs in this way can help your bulbs survive and begin to develop roots in order to be able to “force” the bulbs in a glass vessel in the Spring.
Crocus, and all bulbs that bloom in the Spring, need to make their home in soil that is kept moist but never soggy. These bulbs can be a favorite of squirrels, and they will often dig the bulbs up over the Winter for a nice big meal. To prevent this from happening, we have had success with staking hardware mesh over the areas that bulbs are planted in, and removing the mesh once the plants start to bloom. All bulbs should be planted in orientations and at depths specific to the plant. For Crocus, plant the bulb pointy side up in a hole that is about 3 inches deep, and can be planted in groups up to 9 in number. It’s a good idea to loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole, as well. Crocus prefer a sandy/loamy soil but will grow in full sun or part shade.
FORCING BULBS IN THE SPRING:
To “force” bulbs in the Spring, select either a vase created specifically for allowing these bulbs to grow and bloom without soil, or a tall, slender vase and line the base with a generous amount of stones, nearly to the top of the vase, and place your bulb on top of the pebbles. You will fill the water to just under the base of the bulb, and keep the water at that level until roots form. At that point, keep the roots in water at all times until the bulb has bloomed. To prepare the bulbs for blooming, place them near a very bright source of light (a grow light is best) until they begin to develop leaves. Make sure the area they are stored in to soak up the light is no warmer than 65 degrees Fahrenheit at any given time. They are now ready to go in your vessel to bloom!
You may reuse bulbs again and again, but they must be allowed to collect energy from the sun via their foliage. The easiest way to accomplish this is to plant the bulb in some soil and place it in a spot where it will get plenty of sun. Wait until the foliage has browned and withered, then dig up your bulbs and store them as before.