Growing Saffron Crocus: Planting Saffron Crocus Bulbs

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) in bloom.
Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) in bloom.

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) create quick jewel-toned flowers in the fall garden in about 6-10 weeks (sometimes as little as 4-6 weeks) after being planted. They can be planted in the garden in zones 6-10 or can be used in containers on a patio or grown indoors. Saffron Crocus can be harvested and dried to add flavor to your favorite dishes. Here are tips for growing Saffron Crocus.

Growing Saffron Crocus: When To Plant Saffron Crocus Bulbs

Make sure to plant Saffron Crocus bulbs at least 6 weeks before chance of frost. The bulbs (corms) don't store well and should be planted soon after you receive them.

August is the best time to plant in colder locations (zones 3-6). Saffron Crocus are not cold hardy in zones 3-6, so you should plant the bulbs in a container that will be brought indoors before the chance of frost. If mulched well, Saffron Crocus can be winter hardy in zone 6.

September is best for planting in warmer locations (zones 7-10). Saffron Crocus can be planting in the ground or in containers in these warmer zones.

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) blooms in fall.
Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) blooms in fall.

Where To Plant Saffron Crocus Bulbs

Plant in well-draining soil in sun to part shade. Make sure the bulbs will receive sun during bloom time. If bulbs stay in damp soil, such as clay, they could rot.

When To Expect Saffron Crocus To Bloom

Expect blooms in 6-10 weeks, though sometimes they’ll bloom in as little as 4-6 weeks. Crocus reach 4” tall at maturity.

Saffron Crocus illustration.
Illustration of Saffron Crocus, as it grows. Be sure to plant the bulbs pointy side up.

Growing Saffron Crocus: Basic Planting Steps

Step 1: Plant bulbs as soon as possible after receiving them.

Step 2: Decide on a planting style:

A: Plant crocus bulbs close together to form a cluster, this technique creates a full showy colorful display. Space 12 bulbs per square foot. 

B: For a more natural look, plant crocus bulbs speckled throughout a garden, or under trees. 

C: Plant in a container with well-draining soil.

Step 3: To plant, dig a hole 2-4” deep for each bulb. Plant bulb pointy side up. If the crocus bulbs are being planted in poor soil conditions, add a layer of organic compost, bone meal or Yum Yum Mix around the crocus bulbs. Back-fill with soil and water thoroughly to remove air pockets.

Harvesting Saffron.
Harvest your Saffron by removing the stigmas and drying them on a paper towel. Each bloom produces three stigmas.

How To Harvest Saffron*

When the flowers first bloom, remove the bright red stigmas in each flower’s center, as they carry the Saffron spice. You can use it in the fresh form, or dry it for later use. To dry your Saffron, spread the red stigmas out for several days on a paper towel in a warm, dry place. Once they are dry, store them in an air tight container in a cool dark place. (*Check with your physician before using Saffron in high doses or as a regular dietary supplement.)

Saffron Crocus grown in a crate.
Saffron Crocus is so easy to grow, it can be grown without soil, if your sole interest is to harvest Saffron.

Growing Saffron Crocus: Aftercare

Once blooms have passed and the leaves have turned yellow and brown, you can clean up the foliage. Pull gently on the leaves, if it comes away easily from the ground, the bulb has received all its nutrients. If the foliage seems hard to pull away, then the foliage isn’t ready to be removed yet.

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