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Crocuses are some of the first bright sparks of color in the spring landscape. Cheerful, easy, inexpensive and inclined to reproduce, these little sweeties earn their place no matter how large or small your garden.
Choose a site with full sun to ¾ day sun. Since crocuses are active in the spring and slip into dormancy by late April or May, areas near/under open-branched or limbed up deciduous trees can often work. These areas can be sunny and perfect before the trees are fully leafed out. In warmer areas, a little protection from afternoon sun will extend the crocus blooming window.
Look for a site that drains well. Crocuses are happy in average garden soil, and as with most bulbs, good drainage is important to help avoid bulb rot. If your soil is heavy (clay or compacted) consider digging in generous amounts of soil amendments such as a mix of course sand and compost, leaf mold or well-rotten manure. (Your local cooperative extension office can recommend good mixes that are appropriate for your local soil conditions.) Note: we do not recommend using bone meal as it encourages pets and pests to dig up the bulbs you just planted.
Plant in the fall, when soil in your area has started to cool. Typically, crocuses can be planted right up until the soil freezes in cold regions, although earlier planting provides more time for bulb roots to grow. Note that the roots on winter hardy bulbs continue to grow, albeit more slowly, when soils are quite chilly but not yet frozen.
Dig holes 4” deep and add a handful or two of compost to the soil you removed. Add a bit of the amended soil back into the holes and plant your crocus bulbs about 3” below the soil line. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end facing up, fill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. While there won’t be any visible growth in the fall, the bulb’s roots will be growing and creating a network for absorbing nutrients and moisture.
For Dutch crocus bulbs, plant 8 to 9 per square foot. For smaller species tulips, plant more closely, 15-20 per square foot.
Crocuses need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two.
After flowering, your crocus leaves will photosynthesize and create food for next year’s show. Then the bulbs will go dormant and sleep through the summer. They don’t need, or benefit from, any extra moisture during the summer. When fall temperatures cool, the bulbs will develop new roots and then wait for spring rains and warmth to prompt the next cycle of growth and blooms.
Planning to force your bulbs or plant pre-chilled bulbs in winter? Read this! Forcing Bulbs & Pre-Chilled Bulbs
Light: Full sun to ¾ day sun
Soil: Average, well drained
Depth: Plant bulb base 3” deep
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Beds, pots and borders
Tip: Plant several varieties to extend the blooming season
They Start Out looking Like This:
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