Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Crocus — Let’s Plan for Spring!

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Hey All – thought you would like this great article from our October View.  Read below for some timely information about the spring-flowering crocus from Pat McGivern.

To read the full newsletter, please click here: http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/pdfs/The%20View%20Volume%204%20Issue%2010.pdf

(You can also sign up online  to receive our monthly e-newsletter at http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/newsletter.asp )


As our fall days are rapidly growing shorter, we need to plan now to see some of the first colorful blooms push though our late winter beds to welcome spring.  Crocus are easy to grow, inexpensive, and readily available to plant this month–as they should be planted before the ground freezes.

Crocus (plural crocuses or croci) is a genus in the iris family comprising about 80 species of perennials growing from corms.  The name of the genus is derived from the Greek krokos, which is a word believed to be borrowed from similar words in Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, and Arabic, meaning saffron, or saffron yellow.  The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, an autumn/fall blooming species.  Crocus are native to those areas of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.  Frescos of crocus are found on ancient sites on Crete and Santorini.  Crocus were brought by corms to the Netherlands in the 1560’s by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador, and by 1620 new garden varieties had been developed.

Crocus have cup shaped solitary flowers that taper in a narrow tube, and the leaves are grasslike, often with a white stripe along the leaf axis.   Both the flowers and leaves are protected from frost by a waxy cuticle, thus it is not uncommon to see crocus bloom during late winter or early spring snowfalls.  Among the cultivated varieties, C. tommasinianus is the first to flower.  The larger (still only about 4 inches) “Dutch crocuses,” C. vernus, bloom a bit later in spring.  Many colors are available, but purple, lilac, yellow, and white are predominate.

Most crocus do best planted in sunny well drained soil, although they can thrive anywhere not in dense shade.  They are tough and hardy, but can rot in soggy ground.  Plant to depth of package instructions, most are 3 to 4  inches deep, plant corm with pointy end up. Crocus beds can be fertilized in late autumn, or soon after flowering in the spring so the corms have time to utilize the extra nutrients.  Water the beds in fall if weather is extremely dry. It is reported that deer, squirrels, and rabbits rarely bother these little plants and corms.

So, let’s get out and plant now to renew our spirits next spring.  You will see why, in the language of flowers, crocus means cheerfulness.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 24, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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