Crocuses

a good sign of spring, a crocus.

Credit: Annette McCarthy
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Botanical name: Crocus

Plant type: Flower

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun

Soil type: Any, Loamy

Flower color: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Purple, White

Bloom time: Winter, Spring

When it seems like winter will never lose its icy grip, the dainty goblet-shaped crocus pushes through the snow to put on a show of colorful revival. If you are not planting this perennial bulb, you are missing an early season of delight.

From snow crocuses (the first to bloom) to giant Dutch crocuses, all just 2 to 4 inches tall, these blooms offer a variety in color (pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, purples, blues, and more) that stand out against the bleak late-winter landscape. Many have strong perfumes that lure bees out of their hives in February or March.

Small bulbs like crocus not only provide winter garden color, but they naturalize, meaning that they spread and come back year after year—with minimum care—for an ever-larger display. As a bonus, deer, squirrels, and rabbits rarely bother early little bulbs.

Planting

  • Before the ground freezes in the fall, early bulbs can be planted most anywhere, except in the dense shade on the north side of buildings.
  • Ideally, plant crocus corms 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected and when soils are below 60 degrees F. This is usually during September and October in the North, and October and November in the South.
  • Make sure the soil drains well, because bulbs will rot in soggy ground.
  • Work in organic matter such as compost, peat or a substitute, such as shredded leaves to a depth of at least 10 inches.
  • Plant crocus bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep (with the pointy end up). After planting, water well.
  • Plant bulbs in groups or clusters rather than spacing them in a single line along a walkway or border. Single flowers get lost in the landscape.Plant a few inches apart, and plant in groups of 10 or more.
  • Consider planting crocuses in lawns and meadows where they can form carpets, or mass them in the front of flower beds along the edge.
  • Plant taller bulbs and spring-flowering shrubs behind the early bulbs for color contrast.

Care

  • Apply a balanced fertilizer in early autumn if your spring is short and the days heat up fast; or, apply fertilizer after bulbs flower if your spring is long and temperate; bulbs will have a chance to use the extra nutrients to produce bigger carbohydrate stores.
  • Through the autumn, keep crocus beds watered if weather gets dry but do not waterlog. Cover the beds with mulch before the winter.
  • In late February, remove mulches from snowdrops and crocuses so the shoots can come through.
  • In February and March, keep plastic milk jugs or other coverings on hand to protect the flowers of crocuses and other early bloomers against the return of severe weather.
  • If you have crocuses growing in your lawn in mid-Spring, don't mow until their leaves have died down.

Pests

  • Mice, voles, and squirrels may feed on the corms. If they are a problem, consider planting crocus bulbs in buried wire cages.
  • Birds sometimes pick off the flowers.
  • Corms in storage are prone to rots and molds.

Recommended Varieties

  • 'Bowles White' produces white flowers with deep golden yellow throats in early spring. It grows 2 to 3 inches tall.
  • 'Flower Record' has single pale violet flowers in spring to early summer. It grows 4 to 5 inches tall.
  • 'Pickwick' is a striped crocus with alternating pale and dark lilac and dark purple bases. It's 4 to 5 inches tall and blooms in spring to early summer.
  • 'Tricolor Crocus' is a beauty. Each narrow flower has three distinct bands of lilac, white, and golden yellow. It grows 3 inches tall and blooms in late winter and early spring.
  • 'Purpureus Grandiflorus' has abundance violet flowers with purple bases. It grows 4 to 5 inches tall and blooms spring to early summer.

Wit & Wisdom

  • In the language of flowers, crocus means cheerfulness.

And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring
.
–Oscar Wilde

E-Cards

Send an e-card of these little blooms as a sign that warm weather is coming!

Comments

I live in South Africa and

By Ria van Dijken on August 11

I live in South Africa and have just purchased some flowering Crocus. What is the best way to plant these? Our temperatures are not as cold as in the Northern Hemisphere and I a wondering if I will be able to make them flower again next year? Maybe in a pot?

I also live in Florida

By Helen Nethery Roberts

I also live in Florida (panhandle) and was sent a crocus and mixed bulbs plant that I am trying to keep alive in the house. Any suggestions? They are doing well so far but I have only had them a week. Crocuses came up first but blooms only lasted a day or two.

I also received a purple

By Debby Cotter

I also received a purple crocus for Easter. I live in SE Florida so no cold weather. What can I do to preserve this for next year?

This lovely Easter gift may

By Almanac Staff

This lovely Easter gift may simply be something that's enjoyed until its done blooming. Florida isn't the zone for crocus bulbs to grow in the ground.

Shucks. I guess I finally

By Debby Cotter

Shucks. I guess I finally found a drawback to living in the land of sunshine.

I bought 200 crocus bulbs

By David James Di Pardo

I bought 200 crocus bulbs last fall but never got around to planting them (about 200 bulbs). They spent the winter in our garage which is heated to 15°C in winter. Will these still be ok to plant this fall or are they lost? Also, how should I store them for the remainder of the spring and summer to ensure i get decent results when I plant them in the fall? I'm in Quebec, Canada.

I bought 200 crocus bulbs

By David James Di Pardo

I bought 200 crocus bulbs last fall but never got around to planting them (about 200 bulbs). They spent the winter in our garage which is heated to 15°C in winter. Will these still be ok to plant this fall or are they lost? Also, how should I store them for the remainder of the spring and summer to ensure i get decent results when I plant them in the fall? I'm in Quebec, Canada.

I just received a crocus that

By Beth Gatzke

I just received a crocus that is potted for Easter. Can I keep this in the pot for a house plant?

Sometimes those gift pots

By Almanac Staff

Sometimes those gift pots aren't bred to last but you could try it. Let it bloom. When it's done flowering indoors, stop watering it, let the foliage die back, and put the pot in an out-of-the-way place. In the early fall, remove the bulbs from the pot and plant them outdoors.

I live in pueblo, co, an arid

By liana

I live in pueblo, co, an arid environmemt. When and how much should i water the crocus?

Can you transplant/thin

By cochises kim

Can you transplant/thin crocus while still in bloom or while foliage is still green? I have moved daffodils and they seem to fair well.

You are welcome to experiment

By Almanac Staff

You are welcome to experiment but the gardening guidelines for transplanting bulbs are to move only after the foliage has faded. Bulbs dug and moved before foliage fades are useless. 

I'm anxious to change my lawn

By Dusty88

I'm anxious to change my lawn for this year. We are in the middle of a cold winter with loads of snow, but expecting some 50-degree weather in a few days. Can I plant crocuses during that warming period and expect them to survive? I don't mind if many of them don't bloom this spring, but wondering if they are likely to survive through next year if planted in early spring?

We love the idea of crocus,

By Almanac Staff

We love the idea of crocus, but spring-flowering bulbs must be planted in the fall as they chill.  Plant in November 3 inches deep and 3 to 6 inches apart.

I ended up buying some

By Nicole Auryn

I ended up buying some crocuses at a co-op and they are already blooming. I live in NY were its starting to warm up but it will still have some 20's-30's days ahead. Do I keep inside this spring and plant in the Fall? Or should I plant outside now since it's already in full bloom?

Crocuses are the flower of

By Cathy Etheridge

Crocuses are the flower of St. Valentine.

Can the crocus grow 100% in

By Rentia

Can the crocus grow 100% in south Africa, Gauteng? My wedding is in mid-July 2014 and need them to be perfect like picture shown above. Please advise me if I should rather import them. Any suggestions will be highly appreciated. Thanx

I live in 8a, in Washington

By New planter

I live in 8a, in Washington state. I am a new gardener, and I am even newer to the bulb concept. I bought some crocus bulbs in pots that I want to put in a freestanding planter box that I have. There are some other bulbs on our property that seem to do fine coming back every year on their own, but it does get really wet here, and sometimes it barely freezes in the winter. Is there anything different that I should do with my crocus bulbs in the planter box to keep them healthy other than watering and maybe mulching after the leaves die off?

how long does it take the

By Huma

how long does it take the bulb to grow into a plant? it's my first time with bulb planting and i wonder when i'll see the little angels coming out of the soil.

It depends on the variety.

By Almanac Staff

It depends on the variety. The common spring-flowering crocus is planted in the fall and blooms very early in the spring. In fact, these babies flower through the last winter snows.

thanks for the help. i

By Huma

thanks for the help. i planted the bulbs in end september and was wondering whether i did something wrong as i don't see a plant till now. i live in the capital of pakistan and we have snow fall in the adjacent hilly areas but not in my city. thanks a lot again :)

Hi! When would we plant

By Azafran

Hi! When would we plant crocus bulbs in Zone 7b (Birmingham, Alabama)? And what is the best planting time for highest yield of saffron threads? Thanks!

Saffron Crocus is hardy for

By Almanac Staff

Saffron Crocus is hardy for your zone (7b). Most nursuries ship in September; plant as soon as you receive. See more about growing this bulb: http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/910891-product.html#

I would like to blanket my

By debbie ritter

I would like to blanket my front lawn with crocus - I ordered 1000 bulbs and wonder if you have any shortcuts or suggestions on how to plant this many bulbs. Thanks!

To plant your lawn with large

By Almanac Staff

To plant your lawn with large swaths of bulbs, use a spade to dig out a planting block to the correct depth, position the bulbs and then replace the excavated soil.

After the crocus blooms and

By Anne Evanco

After the crocus blooms and the leaves turn yellow and brown, I understand that you're not supposed to cut the leaves. Can I lay pine straw over the leaves so I don't have the see the yellow leaves? Thank you.

I apologize - I must have

By Momma_Bear

I apologize - I must have misread your question the first time. After the leaves have turned yellow and/or brown, you MAY go ahead and cut them down (or now them if they're growing in a lawn). The key with most bulbs is to allow the leaves to complete their cycle, as tang is what replenishes the bulb for the following year. It sounds like you already knew this, so I do apologize once again for my first unhelpful comment. Happy growing !!

No, you should not cover the

By Momma_Bear

No, you should not cover the foliage with straw. The leaves need the sunshine to be able to feed the bulb, to allow it to multiply and for the following year's bloom. Covering with straw would block the sunshine and be as bad as cutting it back. You can hide unsightly foliage by planting annuals in front of it. Or, another thing you can do is gather a clump of leaves and tie them together in a knot to make neat bundles. I don't bother doing this with my crocuses, as their foliage doesn't last long enough to bother me, but I do do this with my daffodils, which have foliage that lasts well into June and sometimes July. Good luck :)

The fall we after bought our

By Karna Robbins

The fall we after bought our house and tilled our garden 6+ inches (to amend the soil and plant irises) we discovered a couple of spots where bulbs had been previously planted, obviously very deeply. The flowers look just like light purple crocuses. We live in a zone that is 4b-5a (4a-b growing season with 5a summer heat) and in the last 8 years those flowers continue to bloom, but have NEVER had foliage. I'm mystified! Is there a crocus that doesn't produce foliage or could that be the depth issue?

Fall-blooming crocuses

By Almanac Staff

Fall-blooming crocuses produce their flowers without any foliage; the leaves appear in spring.

Can the crocus plant be used

By Neumann

Can the crocus plant be used as a color die?

The Saffron variety was

By Almanac Staff

The Saffron variety was traditionally used as a yellow dye.

I would like to use Crocuses

By Elaine Gerdes

I would like to use Crocuses planted in clay pots as centerpieces for a March 8 wedding in Zone 7a, but I am worried that they will bloom too early or too late. Would you advise me on the best way to plant and store the bulbs to make this possible?

We've never timed a crocus'

By Almanac Staff

We've never timed a crocus' bloom for a wedding event, but your best bet with a crocus is probably to force it in pots.
The bulbs (corms) can be forced after a cold period of about 13 - 15 weeks. Once you bring into a warm place, the bulbs will flower in 3 to 4 weeks--or even faster. Unless you've tested it out, you'll probably want to stagger your timing with multiple crocus a week apart to hit the bloom date. Here's a page about forcing crocus in pots: www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1116.html

I want to force crocus to

By Linda Reagan

I want to force crocus to bloom in October for an event. I'm in zone 8. Can I do it? If so, how?

When we force crocus bulbs,

By Almanac Staff

When we force crocus bulbs, it is in the spring. Essentially, we create a warmer environment so the cold-hardy bulbs think spring has come. For fall, it is already warm. However, there are fall-blooming Crocuses which you plant in late-summer (July or August) and appear in September and October. Search Google for "fall blooming crocus bulbs" to explore the varieties and the age to maturity. "Saffron" a popular variety which grows in zone 8.

After the plant has flowered

By Lisa Monington

After the plant has flowered and the leaves have turned brown, the flower produces a pod and seeds are in it. Will these seeds produce a flower? I thought that the corm only reproduced.

Though a crocus may have

By Almanac Staff

Though a crocus may have seeds, the seeds are sterile and they are not for reproduction. They are not fertile. It reproduces through a corm. a swollen underground stem.

My daughter gave me a plant

By Joyce Asbury

My daughter gave me a plant that I think is a mix of crocuses on Mothers Day. A grass type leaf grew up as the flowers died off is this normal? Also, I live in San Antonio, Texas and our winters just aren't that cold. I also don't know what zone I'm in. Thank you.

You are in zone 8b. Bulbs

By Almanac Staff

You are in zone 8b. Bulbs such as crocus need chilling (in the refrigerator) for 8 to 10 weeks before being planted each year. They may come back for a few years in Zone 8, then peter out. Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus) are the best return growers in the South. In terms of the leaves, let them yellow and die for 6 weeks after the blooms end; the leaves gather the sunlight and make the food needed for next year's blooms. See more: http://www.hollandbulbfarms.com/planting-crocus.html

Blooms are gone

By Anonymous

I planted crocus for the first time last Fall (2012). The blooms came up for a couple weeks, looked great. Had some stormy weather, blooms are now gone. Now Ive have had flattened green leaves for a couple weeks. Do I cut them back, leave them there? If I leave them, for how long. they are in a flower bed with other flowers that will be blooming soon. Will not be mowing the flower bed anytime soon, so what now?

Leave the leaves on the plant

By Almanac Staff

Leave the leaves on the plant for at least six weeks after bloom is finished or until they turn brown. If you don't leave the leaves, the bulb may not store enough food for next year's flowering. If dying leaves bother you, try interplanting bulbs with perennials or summer annuals for camouflage.

digging up my crocuses

By Anonymous

We've had to dig up our old garden completely and I tried to salvage as many of the bulbs as I could. They hadn't completely died off, but weren't in flower. Is it worth trying to store them so I can replant the bulbs in the fall in the new garden? If so, how? If you don't think it's worth it, just say so and I'll save myself the trouble.
Kristen

Save the bulbs that don't

By Almanac Staff

Save the bulbs that don't have any damage or rot (soft spots). Make sure that they are completely dry. Put them in a paper or mesh bag and store them in a dry, dark place until fall.

spring crocus planting

By Anonymous

I REALLY want to plant my crocus mix corms, they are solid purple, solid white, solid yellow, and a white/purple stripe. I did not plant in the fall and I live in Estes Park, CO so we are still getting snowstorms until the end of May or later. I did have them stored in my unheated storage shed all winter,perhaps I can still plant them?

You can still plant them but

By Almanac Staff

You can still plant them but you may not have any blooms this year. Next spring you'll get the full flower show.

Crocus corms

By Anonymous

I have crocus which were bought flowering in 4 small pots. They have finished blooming and the plants have shrivelled. Can I plant the corms on my glazed balcony for flowering next winter/spring? It is not really spring yet here in Stockholm, Sweden. Outside the temperature will reach 11 C/51 F this afternoon and go down to 2 C/36 F at night. Thank you for your help. Edwin

You can plant the crocuses in

By Almanac Staff

You can plant the crocuses in the bottom half of a pot on your balcony and then plant some annuals or herbs in the pot for the summer. Come fall remove the annuals or herbs and cover the pot with a heavy cardboard box to protect it from really freezing temperatures. Use a plastic pot (ceramic pots may crack in the winter).
Lycka till!!

Can I plant crocuses in a

By Anonymous

Can I plant crocuses in a deep pot and bring in to the garage for the winter? My new back yard is fairly shady except for a few spots where there are not any flower beds.

You can keep the crocuses in

By Almanac Staff

You can keep the crocuses in a pot in an unheated garage over the winter. They need the cold winter temps. to bloom next spring.

green leaves but no flowers - why

By Anonymous

my crocuses have dark green leaves but no flowers They look healthy but some do not flower.

Are they in the shade?

By Almanac Staff

Are they in the shade? Sometimes crocus bulbs do not flower due to lack of sunlight.

That just totally answered

By Anonymous

That just totally answered what I was about to ask. Only it doesn't explain why a single crocus (which I planted with many others about four years ago) is blooming now.

When can you dig up and divide the corms for replanting?

By Anonymous

When can you dig up and divide the corms for replanting?

I believe that you meant to

By Momma_Bear

I believe that you meant to say "plant crocus in the FALL", not "in the spring", didn't you?

Do not dig up the corms until

By Almanac Staff

Do not dig up the corms until the foliage has turned yellow and withers. After you carefully dig them up, let them sit in indirect sunlight for 2 to 3 weeks. Then, gently separate the new corms that grow on the old corms, dust with fungicide, and store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, preferably 60 to 65 degrees F. until planting time. Plant crocus in the spring. Note that crocus can be refrigerated at 40 degrees F. for two months prior to planting or potting.

Crocus from last year didn't rebloom

By Anonymous

I live in Zone 5. The crocus I planted in Fall of 2011 bloomed in spring 2012 but haven't come back yet, don't really see leaves poking out either. Yet, the crocus I planted in Fall of 2012 have bloomed nicely so far this spring. Is there a chance the crocus that didn't bloom this spring might bloom next year? I just wonder why they didn't return. What are some of the reasons the crocus didn't return/naturalize. Could it have something to do with the planted depth? Maybe they weren't planted deep enough to naturalize? Would that cause a problem?

crocus bloom

By Almanac Staff

You might give the older crocuses a little more time to pop up; weather or other environmental stress from last growing season may have delayed them a few weeks. If there are no signs of leaves, it is possible that rodents damaged the bulbs (or actually, corms). To avoid them nibbling in future, place wire mesh around bulbs at planting time. Pea gravel sometimes helps, too. In general, plant bulbs twice as deep as the bulbs are tall. Make sure the bulbs are not crowded. Keep up with watering in dry periods, even into fall, but don't overwater. Make sure they are in a place with adequate sunlight (full sun is usually best). In Zone 5, you probably have had the chilling requirements needed over winter. Do not cut the leaves of bulbs after flowering--the bulbs need the leaves to make food to survive the winter and to bloom next year.

Are the older crocuses in a different spot than the newer ones? If so, check out what possible environmental conditions may be affecting the older batch, such as shade, drainage (too close to a sprinkler?), lighting, competition with other plants (such as tree roots), etc.

bloom

By Anonymous

Once it blooms and the blooms dies does it continue to sprout and bloom or does it only bloom once.

The crocus is a perennial.

By Almanac Staff

The crocus is a perennial. So, it will bloom once a season, but it will come back year after year in the early spring. After it blooms, it will grow and store food for a period of time before dying back to ground level and becoming dormant. They will bloom well before grass starts to grow and by the time it reaches mowing height, the crocus are finished for the season.

late planting

By Anonymous

what if you do plant crocuses in the middle of January in Oroville Calif?

Crocuses are planted in the

By Almanac Staff

Crocuses are planted in the fall to bloom in the early spring because they need a cold treatment for 12 weeks to bloom. If you didn't plant, you may want to store until the fall. There are also varieties (e.g., saffron crocus) that are planted in the spring to bloom in the fall but this isn't the norm.

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