Crocus is a genus that contains about 90 species of superb flowering plants in the Iridaceae family. The flowers that belong to this genus are native to several regions of central to southern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. They grow mostly in habitats like woodlands, alpine tundra, scrub, and meadows.
Prized for their eternal beauty, the most popular Crocus species in cultivation are C. chrysanthus, C. sativus, C. sieberi, C. tommasinianus, and C. vernus. Gardeners love crocus because they come with lots of gorgeous varieties and hybrids, providing many other options to choose from. These include ‘Ard Schenk’, ‘Blue Pearl’, ‘Conqueror’, ‘Gipsy Girl’, ‘Jeanne d’Arc’, ‘Pickwick’, ‘Roseus’, ‘Snow Bunting’, ‘Spring Beauty’, ‘Violet Queen’, ‘Whitewell Purple’, or ‘Yalta’.
- Many Crocus cultivars, such as ‘Blue Pearl’, ‘Cream Beauty’, ‘Golden Yellow’, ‘Goldilocks’, ‘Jeanne d’Arc’, ‘Snow Bunting’, ‘Zwanenburg’, and C. sieberi subsp. sublimis, have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the RHS.
- Crocus sativus, commonly known as Saffron Crocus, is the species that we need to thank for giving us the popular saffron spice. Saffron has a subtly sweet, earthy floral taste and is the most expensive spice in the world.
- People use the saffron derived from Crocus sativus as an exquisite fragrant ingredient in perfumes, bath oils, air freshener’s soaps, essential oils, incense sticks, and others. Saffron is also a nice food colouring agent and a dye in the weaving industry.
- The bulbs, leaves, blooms, and seeds of some Crocus species play a big part in medicine. They are an excellent treatment against rheumatoid arthritis, inherited fever disorder, gout, inflammation, depression, and digestive issues.
- These plants are versatile, adding a dash of color to different landscape decorations. They make for wonderful additions to rock gardens, beds, sweeping drifts, and lawns. Likewise, they are great under trees, in front of shrubs, or in pots.
- The bulbs and flowers of Crocuses are attractive to deer, rabbits, chipmunks, skunks, and squirrels. The best way to prevent any attacks is to spray their leaves with a liquid deterrent or to scatter granular deterrents around their roots. Likewise, you can plant Crocuses near Daffodils, which livestock usually hate.
- Although Crocuses look absolutely fabulous on their own, they can also be eye-catching companions to other species of plants. Some of these are Dwarf Iris, Glory of the Snow, Hyacinth, Hellebore, Tulips, Lamb’s Ears, Daffodils, Pasqueflower, Scilla, Snowdrop, and Winter Aconite.
- All parts of these plants are poisonous to cats and dogs. If ingested in large quantities, they can cause mild digestive problems. For safety purposes, plant Crocuses in a spot where your curious furry friends cannot eat them.
Crocus Features: An Overview
- Crocuses are small-sized flowering perennial plants. Depending on the cultivar, they can reach up to 6 inches (15 cm) in height and 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.5 cm) in width.
- These plants emerge from bulbous roots that can store water and energy for a long time. They develop at a somewhat fast pace, establish quickly, and have an overall clump-forming growth.
- Their foliage consists of long, narrow, grass-like, lance-shaped, and light green to dark green leaves. Most Crocus specimens feature a white to creamy-white central stripe on each leaf.
- The blooming period of Crocuses can vary from one species to another. They can bloom anytime from early autumn to early spring. During these periods, they produce solitary, cup-shaped blossoms from narrow tubes.
- Their flowers can exhibit various shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, lavender, or purple. On some varieties, the bloomings can come with different cute ombre colour mixes or hypnotic variegated petals.
- After their flowering season, Crocuses bear fruits where blossoms were before. The fruits are tiny, purplish-brown capsules that contain numerous seeds.
Even if you have lots of experience in the gardening world or not, Crocuses will be nothing but a piece of cake to grow and care for. These lovely flowers are very low-demanding in general, making them perfect start-ups for beginner growers. But! As with many other species of plants, you will have to meet their particular, but basic requirements.
In terms of lighting, Crocuses will grow at their best under full sunlight exposure. Because of this, you should grow them in a location where they can receive at least 4 hours of bright, direct light daily. Indoors, place them in the brightest area of your house, such as in front of a south or north-facing window.
Spring-blooming Crocuses produce flowers when there are very few leaves on the trees to shelter their bloomings. Since they bloom so early, make sure you provide them with some shade to protect their delicate flowers, especially during the hot summer days.
The hardiness of Crocuses usually varies from one cultivar to another. In general, most types can withstand both cool and hot temperatures only in the USDA zones 3 through 8. To bloom properly, their bulbs need about 12 to 15 weeks of cold temperatures that range from 35 to 45 °F (2-7 °C). Due to this, Crocuses thrive where winters come with cold weather overall.
Crocuses have no high demands regarding humidity, but too much moisture may result in root rot with time. These plants are quite susceptible to various viruses that can prevent them to grow and bloom as they should. If you notice any suspect change in your plants’ habits, it is wise to dispose of them to prevent any future spread of the virus.
As mentioned above, Crocus bulbs need a period of 3 to 4 months of cold temperatures to show the best results. If you live in a region where winter temperatures are not as low as these plants need, you can easily grow them as annuals. In general, you can get potted Crocus specimens from some vendors that have already done the prechilling process.
In case you want to enjoy them for a longer time, however, you can also chill the corms yourself for the next spring. Make sure you begin chilling the bulbs in your refrigerator about 15 weeks before the planting time. Once this period has passed, you can plant the Crocus corms without worrying about the future results.
Although Crocuses are not particularly picky when it comes to their growing medium, they prefer substrates with a neutral soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Since root rot is a common problem among these flowers, we recommend you plant them in soil that has very good drainage.
Like most species with bulbous roots, Crocuses store their own energy in their roots. Therefore, you will not need to fertilize your beloved plants very often to grow healthy and happy. In fact, the only case in which you should fertilize them would be if you are growing them in poor soil. Apply a light top layer of bone meal or bulb food on their soil in autumn for optimal growth.
If it seems that your Crocuses lose their vigour, you can prune them occasionally to bring them back in shape. Keep in mind that they store energy in their bulbs and require some foliage for it. Because of this, refrain from cutting their leaves back until they turn fully yellow.
The only seasons when you should provide your Crocuses with water regularly are typically spring and autumn. These plants do not appreciate having their feet constantly waterlogged. Moreover, too much moisture may easily cause them to rot.
Make sure you check their growing medium in-between waterings to avoid soggy conditions. As a rule, spoil them with a nice drink only when the soil has dried out completely.
Winter-wise, Crocuses will need some water once in a while, but only if the snow does not cover the ground. In summer, these plants go dormant and do not generally require moisture. It is better to maintain their soil on the drier side during this season.
Propagating Crocuses through division is the easiest and most efficient way to keep your plants healthy and have more of them around. Although these buddies do not require frequent division, they will begin to multiply and form dense clumps. Because of this, they will eventually produce fewer flowers than usual. And we do not want that!
If you see that your Crocuses have dense foliage and only some blossoms here and there, this is the perfect time to divide them. However, make sure you wait for their foliage to die back before propagating your plants.
In the first step, you must dig the plants out of their growing medium. Next, divide their bulbs into two or three sections so each one has at least one stem attached. After this process, transplant the divided parts absolutely anywhere you want to. In case you prefer to have your flowers in the same spot, plant each bulb at a distance of at least 3 inches (7.5 cm) from the other ones.
After all the time and effort you have invested in the well-being of your plant family, you deserve to spoil yourself with one or more spectacular Crocuses. You will see that even if you forget about them occasionally, they will not hesitate to forgive you once you come back. Thanks to their easy-going nature, these flowers will surely be one of the friendliest companions of your collection!