Most of us are familiar with saffron, which is derived from the flowers of the plant saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Native to Southwest Asia, the plant belongs to the genus Crocus and family Iridaceae. The flower of this plant has three stigmas, and these stigmas, along with the styles are dried and used as a spice, which is known as saffron.
Even though most of the species of the genus Crocus are famous for being the first plants to bloom in autumn; saffron crocus can produce flowers throughout this season, when other plants stop blooming. So, growing saffron can be beneficial in two ways - as a fall-blooming plant and as an inexpensive source of the spice, saffron.
Tips to Grow Saffron Crocus
This plant is propagated through bulbs or corms, which produce long, slender, dark green leaves and lilac purple flowers with darker veining. The bright red stigma of the flowers are harvested and dried to form the spice called saffron. Growing saffron crocus is not a difficult task, if you know the right techniques.
- In order to grow saffron crocus, you have to obtain bulbs or corms of the plant. The planting season is late spring to early summer. You can purchase the bulbs from nurseries or from online suppliers. The bulbs should be the size of healthy garlic cloves.
- Once you purchase the bulbs, prepare the soil for planting them. You can add some organic material, like compost, leaves, or grass clippings to the soil, which is meant for planting saffron crocus.
- This plant needs full sun and well-drained soil for growing. So, the location for planting must provide them with full sun, and protect them from wind. It should not be planted under a downspout or any other place, that stays wet.
- Plant the bulbs in holes which are four inches in depth. Make sure that the holes are at least four to six inches apart. You have to cover the location with a mesh enclosure, if the place is frequented by gophers and varmints, who like to feed on these bulbs. The bulbs have to be planted with their roots facing downwards.
- Try to keep the soil dry in summer, as saffron crocus is dormant during this time. During fall, flowers and leaves develop from the bulbs. You have to water these plants more frequently, but the soil should not get soggy.
- The blooms last for around four weeks, and during this period, you should not allow the soil to get dry. You can also go for a single application of liquid fertilizer.
- You have to continue watering till the leaves are green. The leaves will wither with the onset of spring.
- Dig out the bulbs during cold climates, and store them in plastic bags along with peat moss, in a cool, dark place. You can plant these bulbs again during the late spring.
You can harvest the stigmas as soon as the blooms open. Dry these stigmas in sunlight and store in an airtight container. You can grow saffron crocus as an inexpensive source of saffron. At the same time, enhance the looks of your flower garden with their beautiful blooms.