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Saffron Crocus Planting Guide

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Grow One of the World's Most Expensive Spice In Your Own Garden
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Get out your favorite Spanish or other ethnic cookbook and begin to dream! Soon you'll be growing your own supply of saffron, that painfully expensive spice that is called for in so many delicious recipes including Seafood Paella, Golden Saffron Cake, and Mushrooms and Leeks with Saffron Rice. And keep in mind, just because you've found the source, now's no time to forget your culinary buddies. Share.

(And remember, these babies flower in the fall, not in the spring with the rest of the crocus clan.)

Outdoor Beds
  1. Find a location where the soil drains well. If there are still water puddles 5-6 hours after a hard rain, scout out another site. Or amend the soil with the addition of organic material to raise the level 2-3" to improve the drainage. Peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure all work well and are widely available. Saffron Crocuses will not thrive in water logged soils.
  2. Site your bulbs where they will get full day sun or very light shade. Saffron crocuses prefer average amounts of moisture in the spring but do best dry sites in the summer when they are dormant. If your region experiences wet summers the crocuses can be planted under the eves for summer dryness and given supplemental moisture in the spring.
  3. Dig holes and plant the crocuses 3-4" deep and 2-3" apart. The bulbs are small and rounded, with slight pointed tops - plant with the points facing upwards. If you can't tell which side should face up, plant the bulbs on their sides; root action will pull the bulbs into the right position.
  4. After planting, water crocuses well, gently soaking the soil and settling it around the bulbs. Roots will form in the autumn. In warm areas some foiliage may also develop in the fall. Buds and flowers are produced in the early spring.
  5. When in bloom feel free to trim the colorful stamens for cooking and drying for later use. This will not hurt the plants.
  6. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulbs for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods; about 1" of moisture per week is a good estimate.
  7. If, late in the season, the leaves yellow and die back, the foliage may be removed at this point. Your bulbs will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle. In warmest areas the foliage may stay green until mid spring when it will yellow and die back. When leaves are absent and the bulbs are dormant, withhold water.
Pots, Barrels, Tubs & Urns
  1. Find a large container and fill it with a commercial potting mix that drains well. Saffron crocuses will not thrive in water logged soils.
  2. Site your bulbs where they will get full day sun or very light shade. Saffron crocuses prefer average amounts of moisture in the spring but do best dry sites in the summer when they are dormant. You may want to move your containers seasonally to accommodate this.
  3. Dig holes and plant the crocus bulbs 3-4" deep and 2-3" apart. The bulbs are small and rounded, with slight pointed tops - plant with the points facing upwards.
  4. After planting, water your bulbs well, thoroughly soaking the area. Roots will form in the autumn. Foliage will develop in the spring and flowers will follow in late summer through fall. While your bulbs may bloom the first season, don't be concerned if they bloom for the first time next fall.
  5. When in bloom feel free to trim the colorful stamens for cooking and drying for later use. This will not hurt the plants.
  6. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulbs for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods; about 1" of moisture per week is a good estimate.
  7. If, late in the season, the leaves yellow and die back, the foliage may be removed at this point. Your bulbs will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle. In warmest areas the foliage may stay green until mid spring when it will yellow and die back. When leaves are absent and the bulbs are dormant, withhold water.

Note: For container plantings we recommend overwintering pots in an unheated garage. This helps mitigate the effects of both very cold nights and the big temperature swings that can come with sunny winter days and bitter nights. Pull the pots outside in February or March and watch for little crocus sprouts to appear.

Remember - Saffron crocus are fall bloomers. They'll sprout foliage in the spring but it's in the fall that they flower and produce their valuable bounty.




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