Crocus naturalised under tree

How To Grow Crocus

Grow crocus for a splash of spring colour and food for insects

Crocus are one of the first of the spring bulbs to flower and their emergence is always a welcome sight, spring is almost here with summer not far behind! It is a member of the iris family with about 90 known species and comes in white, yellow and shades of purple. In the wild they appear in a range of habitats from sea level to alpine pasture, growing in meadows, scrub and woodland. Saffron is obtained from the stigma of Crocus sativa and there is evidence that it has been in use for about 3,500 years. England was one of the foremost producers of saffron until cultivation ceased in the 1870s.

Crocus sativa (Saffron crocus)

Crocus sativa

The spring flowering varieties are in the garden centres in late summer and early autumn and need planting as soon as you buy them, before they start sprouting. There are autumn flowering varieties called colchicums; click here to read the blog ‘Captivating Colchicums’. When you buy your corms make sure they are nice and plump and don’t have any mouldy patches. They are an important source of pollen and nectar for late and early flying insects.

Position
They like a free draining soil with a little moisture retentive humus in full sun. They look spectacular naturalised in lawns or underneath deciduous trees; but if you decide to plant in this manner you must not mow the grass until the crocus foliage has turned yellow as they make new corms every year, so if you cut the grass too soon they are not able to make new corms. They are also suitable for rockeries, pots, interspersed into a spring bedding planter and at the front of the herbaceous border. They also make a great layer in a large pot with tulips and daffodils to give you a succession of colour.

White crocus

Planting
If planting in a lawn just lift a section of turf and sprinkle the corms underneath, add a little blood, fish and bone and replace the turf.

Unless you are planting them in containers, where you can place them fairly close together, space them about 8 – 10cm (3 – 4”) apart and 5 – 8cm (2 – 3”) deep.

If planting in a heavy soil apply a generous measure of grit to increase drainage; however if the soil is too heavy it may be better to look for another site or else plant them in containers. If you have a light sandy soil add some good quality peat-free compost to hold onto a bit of moisture. Sprinkle in a little controlled release balanced fertiliser or blood, fish and bone.

If planting in a container use good quality compost mixed with horticultural grit and cover the drainage hole with a piece of crock to prevent it blocking with silt.

Aftercare
Dead head as soon as the flowers have gone over but don’t cut off the foliage until it has gone yellow. Don’t mow lawns until the foliage has gone yellow.

Keep them just damp, too wet and they’ll rot, too dry and they may not form new corms for the following year.

Feed in autumn with a balanced controlled release fertiliser or blood, fish and bone every couple of years if you have nice rich fertile soil; if you have sandy free-draining soil feed every year.

Crocus 'Pickwick'

Crocus 'Pickwick'

Problems
Mice and squirrels can be a real problem as they tend to dig up the bulbs so you may have to protect them with some chicken wire.

Slugs and snails will also go for the new shoots so you will need to be vigilant and pick them off or else place a layer of grease or a copper band around pots.

Flowers not appearing the following year could be the result of small creatures digging them up, cutting off the foliage before it has had time to make a new corm, gone rotten due to poor drainage or become too dry when trying to form new corms.

Varieties

  • ‘Golden Yellow’  -  large, deep yellow, strong grower suitable for naturalising in lawns
  • ‘Gypsy Girl’  -  large, lemon yellow with deep maroon/brown stripes, slightly fragrant
  • ‘Pickwick’  -  large, white with purple stripes, strong grower suitable for naturalising
  • ‘Prins Claus’  -  purple outer petals with a white edge and white inside
  • ‘Remembrance’  -  large, deep blue
  • ‘Snow Bunting’  -  pure white with an orange eye

For more information on growing bulbs just get in touch with our staff here in the Outdoor Plant department.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer so always used to producing something from the earth, whether it was animals or garden produce. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I also keep a few hens and grow vegetables for my own personal use. I gained a BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management. As a result of this I have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening.