Crocus (pronounced KROH-KHUS) is a genus of flowering plants. It comprises over 90 species of perennials and belongs to the iris family.
Roughly around 30 Crocus varieties are commonly sold and planted by those who love flowering bulbs.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek word Krokus, meaning saffron.
This is probably because the spice saffron comes from Crocus Sativus, the fall blooming species of crocus.
However, while the plant may have been named after saffron, in Greek mythology, Krokus was a young mortal who fell in love with Smilax, a beautiful nymph.
He was so sad that the Gods turned him into a plant of a similar name so he could live with Smilax forever, who also turned into a plant!
While the story may not be true, there’s no doubt that both Crocus and Smilax are unique, beautiful, and amazing in their own ways!
The cultivation of Crocus Sativus, also known as fall crocus, for obtaining saffron was first documented in the land of Mediterranean, especially on the island of Crete.
However, these plants have been spotted way before that in the Netherlands in the 1560s.
The interesting thing is that Crocus is not native to the Netherlands. Instead, the plants grew from corms brought back from Constantinople by the ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Today, crocuses are all around the world. These plants are found in diverse climatic conditions.
They are native to scrubs, woodlands, meadows. They grow just as well on the sea level as they do in alpine tundra, regions in central and southern Europe where trees do not grow due to high elevation levels.
No wonder – different species of crocuses are found across Europe, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
Growing Crocus Care
Size & Growth
Crocuses are flowering plants that enjoy equally beautiful foliage. These plants protrude, grow, and thrive as bulbs.
Generally, crocuses can grow up to be 6” – 12” inch in height and anywhere from 1”- 3” inch in width.
However, keep in mind that the size can vary depending on the individual species of crocus.
Remember, when it comes to crocus bulbs, it is important to exercise patience.
They grow slowly so make sure you give your crocus enough time to grow at its own pace.
This is important because a crocus plant will not flower until the roots get a chance to grow well before the bulbs start to bloom.
Flowering and Fragrance
Crocuses are one of the first blooming flowers in the spring, welcoming the pleasant weather.
Sometimes, you can even notice crocuses poking their blooming bulbs through the snow! When moved indoors to provide warmer temperatures, these plants can bloom even earlier in the year.
The flowers are shaped like a cup. The solitary flowers narrow down into a tube.
While the structure and appearance of flowers from all crocus species are quite similar, the flowers greatly vary in color.
These flowers bloom in a variety of different colors including pink, purple, red, blue, etc. However, the most prominent colors are mauve, lilac, white and yellow.
The flowers have a sweet light fragrance. When the temperature is maintained to around 60° degrees Fahrenheit, the flowers can last up to 1 – 2 weeks.
Light & Temperature
Crocuses enjoy the light. They do well in full or part sun.
Generally, it is advisable to choose a spot for growing spring-flowering crocuses that is shady but still receives a lot of light.
When trying to force the crocus to bloom, you may have to move the plant to a slightly warmer place, preferably indoors.
Place it in a location where the temperature does not go over 40° degrees Fahrenheit.
Just as soon as the first buds appear, move the blooming bulbs onto a window sill or any other place where it can enjoy a lot of light.
As the flowers start to bloom, it is advisable to maintain the temperature at around 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
Watering and Feeding
These plants do not require a lot of water or feeding so make sure you keep from overwatering the plants and feed them only when required.
During the autumn, keep the soil damp but ensure it is not waterlogged at any time. Water regularly during spring.
If there is no snow in the spring, you can moderately water the plants in winter as well. However, these plants go dormant during summer and enjoy drier soil.
Apply fertilizer in early autumn if you experience a short spring. On the other hand, if the spring season is in for the long haul, apply fertilizers only after the bulbs have already produced flowers.
Soil & Transplanting
Crocuses enjoy well-balanced soil having the pH level around 6 or 7.
More importantly, make sure that the soil offers good drainage as these plants don’t do well in excessively damp soil, especially during the summer, after the flowering season.
If you need to transplant your crocuses, the best time to do that is during the autumn.
Grooming and Maintenance
Crocuses do not require a lot of grooming. This makes them a good option for beginner gardeners.
Nonetheless, don’t forget to remove the withered flowers once the flowering season is over.
Did you know –> You Can Force Spring Flowering Bulbs Outdoors To Flower Early!
How To Propagate Crocus Bulbs
Propagate crocuses through corms. The best time of the year to plant crocuses is autumn, especially during the months of October or November.
Set the bulbs in a manner that the tops are 2 – 3 inches below the surface level. Use rich, fast-draining soil to plant the corms in a pot.
If you plan to force bloom the plants in spring, bury the pot in the garden, allowing it to enjoy the winter chills.
Water the corms when required but make sure the water drains properly.
Once you have buried the pot in the garden, cover it with mulch to form a protective layer.
Once it’s time for the crocuses to bloom, take the plant indoors and maintain a temperature around 40° degrees Fahrenheit.
You will see bulbs protruding from the soil and soon the flowers will appear.
After the flowering season, if the leaves finally wither, remove them and plant the corm in a garden.
Leave it undisturbed for about 2 -3 years until it’s time to force bloom the crocus again!
Crocus Pest or Disease Problems
Crocuses are susceptible to viral infections. Unfortunately, there is no cure.
If your plant is infected, it is best to dispose of the plant to keep the virus from spreading.
Suggested Uses For Crocus Plants
Crocuses bloom beautiful flowers that provide all the colors you need to feel the impending arrival of spring even when the ground is still covered in snow!
They make nice bulb additions to lasagna gardens too.