How to grown Crocus sativus (Saffron crocus)

Crocus sativus

Crocus sativus flower in November, they are fully hardy and prefer to be outdoors throughout winter. They should be planted between September and mid October for flowers in the first year. They can also be planted between mid-October and early December although they will have missed their flowering time in the first year and will wait until the second year to flower. If planting after October, they will have shoots – they should be planted at the normal depth with the shoots intact, the shoots may be long enough to be exposed above the soil level. They will continue to grow normally.

Crocus sativus bulbs can be planted directly outside in borders or patio containers. You can also enjoy growing them in pots indoors.

— If you have a heavy soil or soil with a high clay content, it is a good idea to incorporate plenty of compost and some grit or sand prior to planting to aid drainage.

— If planting in containers, we recommend using peat-free multipurpose compost.

— Choose a position in full sun or partial shade.

— Plant the bulbs around 5-10cm deep with the pointed side or shoots facing upwards.

— Space the bulbs around 10-15cm apart from each other.

— Cover back over with soil/compost. Water them in after planting to settle them. Unless it is very mild and dry, they will not require any further watering through winter. They will only require water in spring if it is warm and the soil is dry. If growing them indoors, water whenever the soil looks dry.

— After flowering, allow the leaves and stem to fully die back or turn yellow before removing it, as this is feeding the bulb for next year. It may not be until April the following spring that the grassy foliage turns yellow and can be removed.

Crocus sativus are fully hardy and will be fine outside without frost protection throughout winter. It is best to top up with some fresh bulbs for flowers in the second year, while the original bulbs sometimes skip the second year of flowering while they grow bulblets which will take over.

— Harvest the three red stigmas of crocus sativus with tweezers on the day the flowers open, you can dry the stigmas on a piece of kitchen towel for around 2 weeks before storing in an air-tight container to use as a spice.

Plant calendar

  • Planting
  • Flowering

Gracy knows: Crocus sativus

"Saffron bulbs, or Crocus sativus, are known to be one of the most valuable plants to grow. It takes around a 150 Crocus sativus plants (and some careful harvesting and drying) to nett about one gram of the saffron spice."

Planting instructions