Saffron Crocus Planting Guide

Cooks in the know are well aware that super fresh ingredients produce the most delicious and nutritious culinary creations. And nothing beats the freshness of picked-from-the-garden. Grow your own saffron crocuses and you can have a ready supply of those flavorful (and ridiculously expensive) saffron threads!

Choosing a Growing Site

Choose a site with full sun for your saffron crocuses. These plants bloom in the fall and require lots of sunlight for good flowers and well developed saffron threads. Saffron crocuses require seasonal changes - hot summers and cooler winters. They are not recommended for indoor growing.

Saffron crocuses originate in regions where the summers are dry and they’ve adapted to this. When selecting a site, look for one that gets minimal moisture during the summer when the bulbs are dormant. This means it’s not ideal to add them to gardens where everything gets watered daily. Good siting options include under overhanging eves on the sunny south side of a house, garage or shed.

Soil Prep for Saffron Crocuses

Look for a site where the soil drains well. Saffron crocuses grow best in garden soil that has a good amount of organic matter. If your soil is lean, add some compost to improve the texture and available nutrients. As with most bulbs, good drainage is important to help avoid bulb rot. Note: we do not recommend amending the soil with bone meal as it encourages pets and pests to dig up the bulbs you just planted.

When to Plant Saffron Crocuses

The saffron crocuses sold here have been grown, harvested and conditioned for autumn planting. Plant your bulbs any time in the fall after the soil has cooled from summer’s heat.

How to Plant Saffron Crocus Bulbs

Loosen the soil to 6 inches deep and add a handful or two of compost to the soil you removed. Place a bit of the amended soil back into the holes and plant your saffron crocus bulbs 4 inches below the soil line. Plant with the pointy end of the bulb facing upwards. Refill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb.

Saffron crocus bulbs are often eager to sprout and get growing. When planting bulbs with sprouts, handle gently to avoid damaging the sprouts.

For spacing, plant 10-12 bulbs per square foot. These are slender plants that only grow to 4-5” tall; they don’t need much room.

During the Growing Season

Provide the bulbs with a bit of moisture in the spring and start watering again in the late summer when leaves begin to emerge. Saffron crocus plants need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two when actively growing.

At Season’s End

When much of the season’s garden is wrapping up for the year, the saffron crocuses are just beginning to flower. Blooming occurs in the fall; watch for it. To harvest the saffron threads, keep an eye on the small flowers. When the blooms are fully open, pluck the trio of russet threads (pistil) from each. Use fresh or lay the pistils on a cookie sheet and air dry until crumbly. Store the dried threads in air tight jars. It will stay fresh and usable for 18-24 months.

Saffron crocuses develop little bulblets and these can be dug up and replanted to expand your saffron patch. Typically, digging the whole group of bulbs up late in the fall and promptly replanting a few inches apart is best done every 2-4 years. If crocus production begins to decline, that’s typically a sign that the bulbs are becoming overcrowded and would benefit from being dug and replanted.

Insider Tips

  1. Plant 10-12 bulbs per square foot.
  2. Allow the crocus foliage to turn yellow before removing it. While the leaves are green, they are photosynthesizing and providing food for the bulbs.
  3. Saffron crocuses can be grown in large containers such as half barrels and tubs.
  4. To provide time for your saffron to root in well, try to plant 5-6 weeks before hard frosts set in. Or protect the planting site from frost while bulbs settle in.
shop saffron crocus
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average soil; enriched with compost

Depth: Plant 4” deep

Water: Average moisture in spring and fall, little in summer

Uses: The freshest cooking ingredients!

Tip: Most crocuses flower in spring; look for these purple blooms in fall

GUIDE: Saffron Crocuses

They Start Out Looking Like This: