You know spring is finally on the way when the first crocuses start poking their heads out through the snow. Those small purple flowers bring a smile to any Northeasterner’s heart. Here are some facts about and tips for growing crocuses in your own garden.
The word “crocus” is Latin for “saffron.” The three stigmas (female reproductive organs) and part of its style (the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant) are often dried and used in cooking for seasoning and coloring. But it takes thousands of crocuses to get just one ounce of saffron, which makes it the world’s most expensive spice by weight.
The crocus that produces saffron is an autumn-blooming variety with the Latin name Crocus sativus. The famous winter-blooming crocus is called the Snow Crocus, or Crocus chrysanthus.
Crocuses are native to and were first cultivated in southern Europe, near Greece. They are also common in Asia. There are approximately 80 species of crocus, only about 30 of which are cultivated.
Since crocuses start as bulbs—or more accurately, corms—they need to be planted in the fall. They should be planted in areas where they will get a lot of light, especially in those early months of the year when the days are still short.
Crocuses prefer sandy, well-drained soil. Experts recommend planting them in rock gardens or herb gardens, and surrounding them with small perennials such as creeping phlox.
Snow crocuses do best in cold to moderate winter conditions (climate hardiness zones 3 to 7). They won’t grow in warmer climates.
Crocus corms get used completely in the process of growing, and just before they go dormant, crocuses make a number of new corms, keeping the plants going for the next year … as long as they’re not stolen by hungry critters.
Do you have crocuses growing in your garden or balcony? Was it easy or hard to get them blooming? Do you have anything else to say about crocuses? Please share your thoughts in the comments.