Saffron crocus at home

Is it at all difficult to grow, for those who are?

Z5 so they’d become up-against-the-wall specimen plants, but other than that?

Regular crocus certainly weren’t hard, in our old place they came up like weeds…

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I’ve been growing saffron a few years now. I received my original corms dry, but already sprouting so I quickly planted them in a large tera cotta pot and a few of them bloomed (sparingly - not the multiple blooms per corm they are supposed to). They didn’t bloom at all the next year which I thought was probably due to them being exhausted from being planted late the prior year. However, after yet another year after that of apparently healthy growth and still no blooms I’m starting to wonder what I have missing from the equation. I just don’t know why I am not getting flowers despite apparently healthy foliage growth each year.

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I’ve got some started last fall. they are coming up as the little leaves, I put chicken wire over them because the squirrels were and are voracious. no flowers yet, just leaves starting.


picture from a few days ago

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Being an autumn crocus, they will flower next fall.

I have been told that unfortunately many saffron corms sold in the US are of a virus infected Netherland’s strain that flowers less.

If you do get healthy corms, they are quite easy to grow in the ground. They just need some compost after flowering. Though it is important to plant them quite deep, around 10 cm even up to 15.

In pots they do need a more regular feeding with a low nitrogen liquid fertilizer.

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Do you suppose planting them too shallow could be related to lack of blooms? I’ll look into the virus issue. My plants appear healthy with no obvious viral signs, but I’m not sure if the virus you refer to causes any visual cues…

I just looked up some studies on Google Scholar and it seems that in various samples in different areas it’s been pretty common to find saffron crocus infected with virus (probably since it’s an ancient crop which has been exclusively propagated through vegetative means). However, there was mostly only speculation as to whether the virus infection affected crop productivity and from a visual perspective it appears to be that the infected plants are asymptomatic. None of the studies I saw were specific to saffron grown in the Netherland’s though.

They should have flowered anyway if the corm is the right size.

It’s more about how it will develop during the season; it could affect how big they grow, I guess because they will put energy first into starting corm growth deeper and then getting the reserves in, instead of going straight into accumulating reserves first thing.

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Yes, many strains have viruses, being a vegetatively multiplied crop, but from crocus growers aficionados, I have been told that owing to the lack of many flowers and the small size of them, it seems the main strain sold by bulb companies has some sort of a particular virus affecting it, because when growing bulbs from other origins (Spain, Greece, Iran) they performed fine.

I guess that being grown only to be sold to gardeners, and not for comercial planting, this strain hasn’t been investigated in scientific research.

Holland only grows to sell the bulbs for gardening, there is no saffron industry per se. And well… Holland has a bad reputation in terms of plant health control, they sell a little bit whatever comes.

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Do you (or anyone else here) know of any companies selling saffron bulbs in the US that do not trace back to the Netherlands? I found a saffron crocus supplier in the Netherlands which says they supply their corms to 50 other countries so it could be pretty challenging to assure that corms from any other source don’t still trace back to growers in the Netherlands.

Not really right now for the US…
Right of the top of my head I can think of Farmergracy (I think that was the name) that sourced the bulbs from Spain, but it’s a British nursery

Bummer. Most US bulb sellers in general just import from Holland. I’m gonna try replanting deeper once mine go dormant and give more fertilizer. I saw pictures of how large the corms are supposed to be when full size and mine were definitely no where near as large so they don’t appear to be selling mature sizes in the US as well.

I just remembered Fruition Seeds carry corms. Grow Your Own Saffron! - Fruition Seeds

They are not listed right now as it’s not the season for them, but they have them.

For what I have seen in their instagram, they showed the fields, and seemed to be growing fine and flowering.

Don’t know the original source they got them from, but it does seem they grow fine, so maybe it’s not the Holland strain. Ask them anyway, they are a small company so I guess they might answer back giving the details.

If not, alpine/crocus growers do have pages where they list saffron (and it’s origin) too, but they will be more expensive.

And yeah, size does matter, but the good thing is that you can get them to the correct size easily within a season if they where at least half size.

Might be a good idea to give some potassium and phosphorus, and some well rotten compost. Nitrogen as i said must be given in moderation, so probably the soil and compost has more than enough.

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