Crocus sativus (Saffron Crocus)

Scientific Name

Crocus sativus L.

Common Names

Saffron, Saffron Crocus, Autumn Crocus


Crocus officinalis, Crocus orsinii, Crocus pendulus, Crocus setifolius, Geanthus autumnalis, Safran officinarum

Scientific Classification

Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Crocoideae
Genus: Crocus


Color: Lilac-purple
Bloom Time: Fall


Crocus sativus is a perennial plant that grows up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall. Each corm produces several upright, cup-like, lilac-purple flowers with dark purple veins that bloom in early to mid-fall. Each flower has three long-style branches tipped with reddish-orange stigmas. The flowers close at night and open up in the morning. Basal, grass-like leaves appear slightly before bloom.

Crocus sativus - Saffron Crocus

How to Grow and Care

In areas where Saffron Crocus are reliably hardy—USDA Zone 6 through 8 in the South, 6 through 9 in the West—you should plant the corms as soon as you receive them. Saffron Crocus does best in full sun and well-drained soil that is moderately rich in organic matter. Ideally, the site should be relatively dry in summer, when the corms are dormant.

Plant the corms 4 inches (10 cm) deep and 4 inches (10 cm) apart. If gophers, mice, or voles are a problem in your garden, plant the corms in containers or line the bed with hardware cloth or a similar wire mesh. Flowers generally come up 6-8 weeks after planting, although occasionally they wait until the 2nd fall to appear. Bloom lasts about three weeks. The grass-like leaves may emerge either with the flowers or soon after they occur. Sometimes they wait until the following spring. In either case, the leaves persist for 8-12 weeks, then wither and vanish, leaving no trace of the corms below until the flowers appear again in fall. It's not a bad idea to mark the area where you've planted your corms so you don't inadvertently dig them up while planting something else. See more at Growing and Harvesting Saffron Crocus.


Native to southern Europe and Asia.


BACK TO genus Crocus
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