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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Crocuses

Catherine Boeckmann

When it seems like winter will never lose its icy grip, the dainty crocus pushes through the snow to put on a show of colorful revival. Plant this perennial flower in the fall for an early spring delight!  Here's how to plant, grow, and care for crocuses in your garden!

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.

Crocus bulbs (technically called "corms") 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 crocus corms.


When to Plant Crocuses

  • Before the ground freezes in the fall, crocus corms can be planted most anywhere, except in the dense shade on the north side of buildings or under thickets.
  • Ideally, plant crocus corms 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected and when the soil temperature is below 60°F (16°C). This is usually during September and October in the northern U.S. and Canada, and October and November in the southern United States.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Choose a planting site where there is well-draining soil; bulbs will rot in soggy, compacted ground.
  • Before planting, work in organic matter such as compost, peat, or something like shredded leaves to a depth of at least 10 inches.

How to Plant Crocuses

  • Plant crocus corms 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 spring-flowering bulbs and shrubs behind the early bulbs for color contrast.
  • Learn more about planting fall bulbs.

Crocus field
A carpet of crocuses makes for a wonderful spring sight!


How to Care for Crocuses

  • Apply a balanced fertilizer in early autumn if your spring is short and the days heat up fast; or, apply fertilizer after bulbs flower in late winter if your spring is long and temperate. The crocuses  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 the soil. 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.
  • Mice, voles, and squirrels may feed on the corms. If they are a problem, consider planting crocuses in buried wire cages.
  • Birds sometimes pick off the flowers.
  • Corms in storage are prone to rot and molds if kept too moist.
Wit and 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

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Victor Novick (not verified)

2 months 2 weeks ago

do deer like to eat crocus leaves or flowers?
We have a deer problem where we live.

Carl Long (not verified)

8 months 2 weeks ago

Here in Central Texas they are also called ''Crow Poison''. No Idea Why.

The Editors

8 months 1 week ago

In reply to by Carl Long (not verified)

Here's what we're able to piece together on this. It is not a crocus. Crow Poison is the common name of a bulb (Nothoscordum bivalve) of the Onion (Alliaceae) family (formerly of the Lily (Liliaceae) family) that resembles a wild onion and is often called "false garlic" but is neither garlic nor onion in scent or taste. It resembles a snow drop but is taller and has move foliage and the flower has a yellow center. It is found from Arizona to the East Coast, including Texas, of course. 

There is another plant that is called crow poison and Oceola's plume (Stenenthium desum); it produces tiny flowers on a stalk; it does not resemble a crocus or the bulb above. 

As for the term "crow poison," apparently, long ago, people crushed the the pulp of the crow poison bulb and spread it on the feathers on the heads of chickens. If a crow or hawk killed the chicken and ate the pulp, the predator would die. Thus, crow poison. 

kathryn halliday (not verified)

8 months 2 weeks ago

is there a creeping flower i can use to make a colorful lawn area and mix with crocus etc. ? Thamks

We know of no creeping plant that flowers with crocus. But periwinkle, aka myrtle, is a ground cover that keeps its foliage year round and produces blue flowers later in season.