Crocus Species and Varieties – Caring, Propagating and Transplanting Crocuses

Saffron or Crocus is a genus of perennial tuberous herbaceous plants in the family Iridaceae. The genus includes about 80 species distributed in the subtropical and temperate zone of the Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Asia Minor. Currently, there are more than 300 varieties of crocus in the world; they differ in timing of flowering (some bloom in spring, and others – in the fall), shape, and color of flowers. All of them are miniature but so spectacular that Ural gems were scattered around the garden at the time of flowering. Incredible sight! Crocuses with white, blue, and purple flowers are most often found in nature.

This plant is also very popular with gardeners because it is among the most beautiful first flowers (early spring). But only some people know that there are many species of such plants, the flowering of which falls in the fall.

Peculiarities of the Crocus

Crocus is a low-growing plant whose height, as a rule, does not exceed 10 centimeters. Bulbs in cross-sections reach 30 mm; they have a rounded or flattened shape. The surface of the bulbs is covered with scales, and they also have a bunch of calloused roots. No shoots will grow. Narrow, linear-shaped, bundled, scaly leaves grow during flowering or after it. Single glass-shaped flowers reach 20-50 mm in cross-section. Flowers may be cream, mauve, yellow, white, blue, purple, or orange. They open on a leafless, short peduncle surrounded by filmy scales. There are some varieties with bicolor or spotty flowers. Mass flowering lasts 15 to 20 days.

Planting Crocuses in the Open Ground

When to plant: Spring-flowering crocus species should be planted in the open soil in the fall. Those species that bloom in the fall plant in the summer. The site for planting should be chosen as well-lit, but such flowers grow quite well in a shady place or the shade. Suitable soil for crocuses should be dry, light, loose, and saturated with nutrients.

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When preparing the site for planting, it is recommended to add coarse river sand or small gravel to the soil for drainage. As organic matter in the soil under the digging should be made decomposed, manure, compost, or lime with peat, the fact is that this primrose grows poorly on acidic soil. If the soil is clayey, this can be corrected by adding wood ash. Some species can not grow on wet soil, so experts advise making high beds where the drainage layer is made of gravel or gravel. Inspection of the planting material is made; it should not be injured or have flaws.

Fall Planting

If the bulbs in the open soil were planted in September, you could see the flowering already in the springtime. Bulbs are planted in loose soil and should be buried to a depth that is a couple of times their size. If planting is carried out in heavy soil, it will be necessary to bury the bulb only one of its size. Between the bulbs, on average, should be kept at a distance of 7-10 centimeters. Planted flowers need abundant watering.

Excessively close planting crocuses is optional because, in the same place, it is recommended to grow them for 3-5 years, during these years, the bulbs have a colony of offspring. After 5 years, the planting of such flowers is made.

Most flower growers like to grow garden flowers in the wintertime in room conditions. The easiest way to grow in this way is bulbs, which include crocuses. Experienced flower growers are advised to choose Dutch large-flowered varieties for bunting. Choose 5-10 bulbs, which should have approximately the same size. They are planted in 1 pot, which should be a little shallow but wide enough; as a result of such planting, you will grow a whole bouquet of beautiful flowers. To fill the flower pots, use loose, neutral soil with good water and air permeability.

Planting for Bunting

Flowering bulbs do not need to be thrown away. They are provided regular watering and feeding with a weak solution of complex mineral fertilizers for indoor plants. After the leaves begin to change their color to yellow, gradually reduce watering until the complete cessation. The bulbs should be removed from the container when the leaves are completely withered. When the rest of the substrate is removed from them, they should be wrapped in napkins and placed in a cardboard box. The planting material is stored in a dark, dry place, where it will be stored until planting in the open soil in the fall.

Caring for Crocuses Outdoors

Taking care of crocuses is very easy. They only need watering if there has been little snow in the winter and rain in the spring. The height of these flowers depends on how much moisture they get. But it should be remembered that this flower culture is characterized by resistance to drought. The soil surface on the plot should be systematically loosened while pulling out all the weeds.

In the period of intensive growth, crocus should be fed, and it should be remembered that new organic matter should not be introduced into the soil. On fertilizing with mineral fertilizers, such plants respond positively and especially need potassium and phosphorus. With nitrogen-containing fertilizers must be careful because of the large amount of nitrogen in the soil in rainy weather, crocuses can develop the fungal disease. Flowers are fed at the very beginning of the spring in the snow for the first time during the season, using a complex mineral fertilizer (30-40 grams per 1 square meter). During the flowering period, the crocus is fed a second time with the same fertilizer, but it should contain a smaller amount of nitrogen.

When the leaves on crocuses that bloom in the spring turn yellow, it will only be necessary to take care of them in the fall if it is not time to remove the bulbs from the soil. Varieties that bloom in autumn will decorate your garden with their spectacular flowers in September.

Transplanting Crocuses

Digging out the bulbs every year for the winter is optional. However, experts recommend doing it once every 3 or 4 years in the middle of the summer period, when these plants have a dormant period. The fact is that during this time, there is a significant increase in the size of the mother bulb, as it acquires many daughter bulbs. Depending on the variety and species of crocus, its bulbs produce 1-10 bulbs each year. The bulbs become very crowded, which
manifests itself in a decrease in flower size.

What is the best time to dig out the bulbs? As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that bulbs be planted at regular intervals of once every 3-5 years. If you need planting material, this procedure can be carried out more often. Depending on the variety and type of plant, crocuses that bloom in the spring are dug from July to September and those that flower in the fall – from June to August.

After the bulbs have been dug up to dry, they should be cleaned of defective scales and dead roots. Remove any diseased bulbs and treat any mechanical damage with wood ash or crushed charcoal. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until it is time to plant them in the open soil.

Propagating Crocuses

How to reproduce such flowers by baby or daughter bulbs, separation of which from the parent bulb is made during transplanting, described in detail above. The detached bulbs are planted in loose soil in the same way as the primary planting. Once the detached daughter bulb has been planted in open soil, it will take 3 or 4 years to see its first flowering, depending on the variety and species.

Spring-flowering crocuses are propagated by seed. But since it takes 4 to 5 years before the plant first blooms from seed, this propagation method is rare with gardeners. Crocuses that bloom in the fall and grow in mid-latitudes do not have time for seeds to mature properly before winter arrives.

Crocuses after Flowering

Often inexperienced gardeners have the question, what to do with blooming crocuses? The flower stems with wilted flowers should be cut off, but the leaves should be left behind – they will still grace the garden for many weeks. Over time, the foliage will turn yellow and wilt.

Once the leaves have completely dried naturally, the bulbs of spring-flowering species should be removed from the soil. They are dried and stored until September, then planted again. As mentioned above, it is optional to carry out this procedure every year. If the flowers were planted in the open soil less than three years ago, and between bushes is still visible surface of the soil, then the planting can not be carried out. In this case, it is recommended to cover the plot's surface with a thick layer of mulch (fallen dry leaves or peat) for the winter.

Crocus Species and Varieties

There are a large number of different crocus varieties, which are divided by classification into 15 groups. The first group includes those varieties that bloom in the fall, while the remaining 14 groups consist only of spring-flowering varieties and species. Thanks to the crocus species, many hybrids and varieties have been born, and most of them have been bred by breeders in the Netherlands. The most popular commercial varieties are highlighted in the group of Dutch hybrids. Also quite popular with gardeners is a group of commercial varieties called Chrysanthus – hybrids between crocus golden, bicolor, and its hybrids. Below will briefly describe the crocus groups and some of their varieties.

  • Spring-flowering crocus species.

    The linear, narrow leaflets are dark green but have a longitudinal band of silver-white color on their surface. Funnel-shaped, bell-shaped flowers with a long tube are white or mauve. One or two flowers develop from a single bulb. Flowering is in spring and lasts about 20 days. Cultivated since 1561.

  • Crocus biflorus

    In wild conditions, it is found from Iran to Italy and Crimea, and the Caucasus. This plant has various natural forms: with bluish-lilac flowers on the outer surface of the petals, there are brown spots; with white flowers with brown-purple stripes; with brown-purple flowers outside and white flowers inside. The mouth of the flowers is colored yellow or white.

  • Crocus chrysanthus

    In the wild, this species is found on rocky slopes in Asia Minor and the Balkans. Its height does not exceed 20 centimeters. The bulb has a flattened, rounded shape. The leaf plates are very narrow. Some forms have tan or brown-colored stripes on the outer surface of the petals. Stolons are pale red, and anthers are orange. Flowering is observed in April and lasts 20 days.

  • Crocus tommasinianus.

    The flowers prefer to grow on hillsides and in deciduous forests. The perianth leaves are lilac-pink and may have a white border around the edge. The open flowers have a star-shaped and white-colored pharynx. The tube of the flowers is colored white. Up to 3 flowers can form from a single bulb, which reaches a height of about 60 mm. Flowering occurs in April for 20 days,

  • Crocus speciosus
    This species prefers to grow on forest edges in the Balkans, Crimea, and Asia Minor mountain regions. Its leaves are about 0.3 m long. Purple-lilac flowers reach 70 mm across and have purple longitudinal veins on their surface, and flowering begins in the first weeks of fall. It has been cultivated since 1800. There are garden forms with flowers colored white, lilac, dark blue, blue, and pale purple.

  • Crocus pulchellus
    This species is very spectacular. There are dark stripes on the surface of the pale purple flowers. The flowers reach 60-80 mm across and can be 70-100 mm high. On a single bush grows from 5 to 10 flowers, and they open in September or October. This species is not afraid of light frosts.