In the language of flowers, crocus means cheerfulness and just when it seems that winter will never end, the dainty crocus blooms bright and early, pushing through the snow to lead the way for other spring bloomers to follow.
Often sidelined in favour of the pretty snowdrop or showy daffodil, crocus blooms are perfectly gorgeous in their own right. Being a no maintenance planting which will multiply in number year after year, these small but mighty plants are worthy of a place in your garden, rockery or containers, and here is what you need to know:
- There are two types of spring-flowering crocuses: species varieties (snow crocus or wild crocus) that are smaller and the first to bloom; and the more common Dutch crocus (hybrids of Crocus vernus) that have larger flowers and bloom a little later than the species varieties.
- Both spring-flowering types belong to the family Iridaceae, as does the autumn-flowering saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, from which the spice saffron is harvested.
- The hardy six-petalled, goblet-shaped flowers spring up initially from the soil like blades of grass, so be careful not to mistake them.
- Crocus blooms offer a variety in colour in their purples, blues, yellows, pinks, reds, oranges, and whites that stand out against bare soil or snow.
- The colourful blooms and sweet fragrance lure hungry bees out of their hives in February or March.
- Crocus plants will multiply and come back year after year, bringing more blooms with them each time.
- Although often called a bulb, crocus plants are actually grown from corms.
- Plant crocus corms 3 to 4 inches deep, and a few inches apart, with the pointy end up, in well-draining soil, in the autumn for an early spring delight.
- Plant taller spring-flowering bulbs and shrubs behind crocus corms so as not to overshadow them.
- Crocuses are small individually, so grow them in groups or drifts for a spectacular early spring display. Plant in groups or clusters of around 10 or more rather than spacing them in a single line.
- Consider planting crocuses in lawns where they can form carpets. They naturalise well in grass, meaning that they spread and come back year after year for an ever-larger display. Wait to mow until the foliage dies back, usually about 5 to 7 weeks after blooming.
- Crocuses can be dug up shortly after flowering and divided into smaller clusters to be replanted elsewhere.
- Crocuses do not require any pruning, simply let the foliage die back after blooming and then remove it. It’s important to let it die back naturally, as it is storing food and energy for next season.
Varieties to Try
- ‘Pickwick’ is a striped crocus with alternating pale and dark lilac and dark purple bases, alternatively described as silvery-lilac with a dark stripe of purple. It grows 4-5in tall and blooms in spring to early summer.
- ‘Bowles White’ produces white flowers with deep golden yellow throats and is usually one of the first to flower in early spring, growing 2-3in in height.
- ‘Tricolor’ has three distinct bands of lilac, white, and golden yellow. It blooms in late winter and early spring at a height of 3in tall.
- ‘Purpureus Grandiflorus’ has deep velvet-like purple flowers. It grows 4-5 in tall and blooms in spring to early summer.