Most crocus require cold to bloom prolifically and beautifully each year. But there is another crocus which has been around for a long time and which has much different needs and conditions to produce both beauty and a useful product – that expensive spice, saffron.
The saffron that flavors many dishes is from the strands or stamens of this crocus flower. It is a very expensive spice because of the hand labor in picking enough of these stamens to sell commercially, but at home, you can pick fresh stamens for your cooking. Cutting or picking the stamens while the bulb is in bloom, will not hurt the bulb. It looks best planted in masses and in rock gardens.
They grow in zone 5-8 and 8 is just where I am in Glen Ellen in northern California. Be sure to loosen and prepare the soil with compost, peat moss, and be sure they have good drainage. Plant them three to four inches down and about two inches apart. They are an excellent naturalizer and bloom just two to four inches high – like an interesting ground cover!
The color is beautiful with dark purple veining on the lilac petals. The yellow center with the red strands is very eye catching. The crocus bulbs are planted with the pointy ends facing up and then watered well.
These will bloom in the autumn and the strands for saffron will be ready to add to savory dishes.
They are wonderful planted in masses and in rock gardens as they are only two to four inches tall. A wonderful type of grown cover and they naturalize and attract butterflies.