Crocus sativus

Growing-your-own-saffronCrocus sativus

There are times when I feel my love of gardening stretches my family’s patience a bit thin. Yesterday was one of those days. As we were all trooping out to the car to go get lunch, everybody starving and cranky, I passed my container of Crocus sativus and seeing that one was in bloom, literally dropped everything and shouted, “WAIT!!” My poor husband and daughter sat in the car while I ran back inside, grabbed my snippers so I could harvest the styles (or stigmas–the female part of the flower) and take a photo to share with you fine people. Have you ever tried taking a macro photo when 4 very hungry, very cross eyes are impatiently boring into your back? It isn’t easy. But the Crocus sativus has a very short bloom time (we’re talking just a few hours) and the styles begin to lose their flavor once the petals wither and drop. This is the most expensive spice in the world. I wasn’t taking any chances!

Tips for growing Crocus sativus and harvesting the styles for saffron

The Crocus sativus is actually pretty easy to grow. I didn’t even expect to get blooms this season, so I was pleasantly surprised when a few pretty purple blossoms popped up. I planted  my corms in two different containers and am going to experiment by bringing one of these containers indoors and leaving the other in a protected location outdoors this winter. 

When your saffron crocus opens up, take a tiny pair of scissors (I used my embroidery scissors) and snip these red-orange styles off at the base. Dry the styles (sometimes referred to as saffron “threads”) in a warm, dry location (mine took only a few hours to dry) and then place them in a spice container keeping your saffron away from heat and sunlight.

I purchased my Crocus sativus ‘Saffron Crocus’ from White Flower Farm, and I noticed that at present they are sold out which is not surprising since the autumn growing season is already almost over. But I did a search and saw that a seller on Amazon has them, too. Each Crocus sativus blossom will produce only 3 stigmas, so you can see why they are the most labor-intensive and expensive spice in the world. In fact, it would take 75,000 flowers (225,000 stigmas) to equal just 1 pound of saffron. Since it’s so easy to grow and collect yourself, I wonder why I didn’t do this a long time ago.

EDIT: As promised, here is an update: We harvested lots of stigmas last fall–I want to say that each corm gave us a blossom if I remember correctly–and had a nice little pile of saffron threads stored up. Many of the corms left outdoors over winter were chomped on by the chipmunks but I was just in the garden today (mid October) and surprisingly saw that there are a bunch of crocus leaves coming up now from the ones they left alone. The corms that I brought inside and replanted have not yet come up. This was a fun experiment, and I hope this post helps some of you if you’re considering trying them out for yourself! (And if you do, please let us know how you make out.) 


13 thoughts on “Crocus sativus

    1. Hi April! Yup, of the over 75 crocus species that exists, it’s ONLY the autumn-blooming Crocus sativus that gives us the spice, saffron. Amazing, isn’t it?

  1. Girl, I can’t even tell you how much I appreciated this post! Love me some saffron! It’s part of what makes paella soooo delicious.

    I saw an article in BH&G about this but sometimes I don’t believe those people are real, haha. You, you I trust so I’ll be trying this next fall.

  2. Thank you everyone!! 🙂
    Anabel, I know what you mean…I sometimes read those fancy magazines and think, “No, really, how do the rest of us do this?”

  3. I’d never thought of growing saffron indoors! Great idea. I looking into growing it outside a few years ago when I started celebrating St Lucia day with my daughter (requires saffron buns), but we live WAY too far north–zone 3. Perhaps we will try this for next year.

    1. Hi Maria! If you have any success growing saffron indoors please let us know; I’ve never heard of anyone able to actually make that work so you might be the first! 🙂 We’re just hoping that our corms will overwinter in our zone 6 climate. In fact, now that it’s finally starting to get cold, I’ll be bringing the one container indoors to take shelter in our garage. (I’ll report back next spring if they survived.) Thank you for your comment!

  4. How did your Crocus turn out? It is mid July here and I have received my crocus bulbs. I live in south Kansas. My question is-should I go ahead and plant my crocus bulbs now or should I wait until August? My plan is to plant them on the south side of the house in sandy soil. What do you think? This is my first experience with them.

    1. Hi Wendy. My crocus bloomed beautifully last fall, but did not overwinter well as many of them were dug out and eaten by chipmunks. I was able to salvage a few and I’m holding them over until around August when I’ll replant and see how it goes. Not knowing where you are (climate zone) I’m going to assume that the grower that sent them to you did so at an appropriate planting time for your area so it’s probably safe to plant them. Sandy soil/warm location sounds good. Anyone else want to weigh in on this? Best of luck to you!

  5. Hi, This is great! Thanks;-) I am from Quebec and have always loved Crocus but I didn’t know that it was the plant for the saffron as I did see bigger plants almost small trees in Morocco (I did buy some over there very good price compare to here!). Since I live in a 4b zone I wonder if that kind of crocus would grow well. I used to have some but I don’t know if it is eatable or the other kind. I’ll try to find some and put them beside my Buddleia that I planted last year and it grows perfectly well this year since they were well protected from frost and the cold winter we have… Although last Winter wasn’t too bad. We didn’t get as many very cold days as usual;-)

  6. Hey everyone! Thanks so much for your comments(and pins!) Please see my update above, right at the bottom of the post, before you consider purchasing/growing for yourself.

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