Crocus sativus L.
Saffron, Saffron Crocus, Autumn Crocus
Crocus officinalis, Crocus orsinii, Crocus pendulus, Crocus setifolius, Geanthus autumnalis, Safran officinarum
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.
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.
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