Saffron in one of the most expensive spices in the world. It is a fall blooming perennial plant. The Amish community in Lancaster County has been growing it for years. The Saffron Crocus (Crocu Sativus) is not terribly hard to grow. In fact, for personal use, it’s quite a savings.
Growing Saffron Crocus commercially is very labor intensive. It takes 75,000 blossoms to produce just one pound of dried saffron. It wholesales for about $70 per ounce.
The plant grows from corms (bulbs). They produce lilac purple flowers with darker veins. There are three stigmas in each flower that are a bright orange-red. These stigmas are harvested and dried to sell or to cook with.
A starter kit for saffron crocus contains 50 bulbs and cost about $50. The first year if you plant all the bulbs and are successful you can expect less than a tablespoon of saffron. You will have some beautiful flowers and some green stems that will brighten up your autumn as well.
It is important to make sure the drainage is good. The roots and the corms of the saffron rot easily with too much water. The plants do best in full sun.
Prepare the soil with a 2 inch layer of compost. Add your favorite bulb fertilizer as per directions. Till the compost into the soil to a depth of 10 inches. (Use a raised bed if you are concerned about the water level.) If there are gophers and varmints about put mesh down because they will make dinner of the corms.
The corms should be planted about 2 inches deep. Be sure to plant the roots down. They should be spaced between four and six inches apart. Any design that works well with your layout works, as long the plants have enough room to grow.
Summer is the natural dormant stage for these plants. While they need to be in the ground, they don’t need to be actively watered until the leaves begin to appear in the fall. Once the leaves begin to come on they should be watered, but not soggy. The blossom last about four weeks, and the leaves will wither away as spring approaches.
Chances are you won’t get rich growing this in your yard. But if it is a flavor you enjoy and are ready for some great autumn flowers the saffron crocus is an excellent choice.