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Garden Lifestyle

A Saffron Crocus Surprise

Warm November temperatures in Zone 5 can lead to some garden surprises, especially with saffron crocus corms planted in October.

The three red stigmas that grow in the center of the saffron crocus produce the world's most expensive spice.  
Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton

When I wrote about planting saffron crocus last month, I explained how the corms bloom in fall. I just didn’t expect them to bloom this fall.

I planted the small bulbs in early October during a time when the weather had turned cold and a freeze warning was issued. I followed the instructions and planted the 10 bulbs almost 4 inches deep, watered them in and covered the area with a light layer of mulch.

The weather did get cold here in Denver, but then it warmed up. For the last several weeks we’ve had unseasonably warm 60-degree days with a few days warming to almost 70. 

When I planted the saffron crocus, I was hoping to see green leaves emerge in spring, followed by small purple flowers in fall. That’s why it was surprising to see the leaves have already pushed through the mulch and one crocus has bloomed.

I quickly clipped the flower so I could dry the prized stigmas for cooking and then added a thick layer of leaves to help protect the bulbs from the warm weather. I also wondered what this meant for the remaining bulbs. How would this affect next season’s flowers?

Instead of fretting about the outcome, I got in touch with Territorial Seed Company where I had ordered the saffron. I quickly heard back from one of the customer service representatives who told me the saffron crocus should do fine, especially since I’d already mulched the garden bed.

After doing a little more research on saffron crocus, I discovered that some flowers do bloom in warm areas about 6-8 weeks after planting, although sometimes the leaves and flowers wait to appear during the second season. 

While the weather remains warm, I may remove some of the mulch to see if I can get any other flowers to bloom before winter really does set in.

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