How to Grow Saffron Crocus

What would an Indian, Middle Eastern or Spanish cook do without saffron? It is used widely in so many dishes from the famous Saffron Rice to Paella.

And the thing is the Saffron crocus or plant is an easy bulb to grow. So if you are thinking you might like to grow your own, well you can.
The saffron plant is a fall flowering bulb, the botanical name is Crocus savitus and this wonderful little bulb produces the worlds most valuable spice. So lets’ get planting.

Where to Grow Saffron Crocus

You can grow these in containers or in garden beds, but lets’ look at the required climate first. Generally regarded as suited to USDA zones 6-9 it is a plant that you could grow outside these zones if you could create a suitable micro climate.

Crocus Sativus is originally from the Middle East and areas around the Mediterranean, widely spread but all with hot dry summers, cold winters and well drained soil.

They also need sun, in fact the flowers will not really open up in shade. The only way to grow Crocus Sativus is from bulbs, and this is because it is really a sterile form selected over many years (centuries) for its qualities. So forget the seed growing idea for true saffron.

How to Grow Saffron Crocus

Planting the bulbs

Choose a sunny position and prepare the soil well, dig over so it is loose and friable, in commercial production it is often grown in raised beds to improve drainage, however this does not mean dry arid conditions.

Bulbs should be planted at around 4 inches (10cm) deep, however this is where it becomes tricky. The deeper you plant them the better the quality of the saffron, but less will flower.

Best planted in late winter they can settle in over summer ready to flower in fall. The first sign will be some thin grassy foliage with a light stripe. The flower appears a week or so later.

Picking Saffron

So what part to pick ? It is the female part or stigma, which should be a deep crimson red, the yellow threads are the stamens, smaller and of no value.

And after picking the stigma, (the same day as the flower first opens) leave them in a warm dry position to dry. It is now ready for storage and use.