Crocus Planting Guide

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.

Choosing a Growing Site

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. 

Soil Prep for Crocuses

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.

When to Plant Crocuses

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.

How to Plant Crocus Bulbs

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.

During the Growing Season

Crocuses need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two.

At Season’s End

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.

Forcing Bulbs & Pre-Chilled Bulbs

Planning to force your bulbs or plant pre-chilled bulbs in winter? Read this! Forcing Bulbs & Pre-Chilled Bulbs

Insider Tips

  1. For Dutch crocus bulbs, plant 8 to 9 per square foot. For smaller species tulips, plant more closely, 15-20 per square foot.
  2. Chipmunks and squirrels are fond of crocus bulbs. To prevent these rodents from digging and eating your bulbs, consider disguising the smell of the bulbs, as that’s what clues the critters in to the bulb whereabouts. Spray the planting patch with deer repellent or sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Adding crushed stone to the planting soil is also helpful as this grit often reduces digging.
  3. Additionally try planting tommy crocuses, early types that seem to be less appealing to most chipmunks.
  4. Finally, when you’re done planting, clean up any stray bulb pieces or bulb skins. You don’t want to encourage the rodents to explore by leaving evidence.
Shop crocuses
Shop crocuses

Success Snapshot

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

GUIDE: Crocus Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: