Crocus are a favorite springtime flower that appear in lawns and flower gardens when the weather starts to warm up. Often crocus are the first plant to flower. They have short, grass-like leaves and brightly colored flowers, usually in purple or white, on a stem 4 to 5 inches tall. Several varieties of fall blooming crocus also exist; one of them provides the spice we know as saffron.
Crocus like full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Planting them under deciduous trees is fine if they get a couple of hours of direct sun when the tree is in full leaf. They like a well-draining soil and do not tolerate soggy conditions. In places with poor drainage, you may need to plant crocus in raised beds or add some organic matter to clay soils to improve drainage. They will live in a slightly acidic pH soil but prefer slightly alkaline conditions to really thrive. Unless a nearby plant, like a large tree or shrub, is using all the available water, normal rainfall is sufficient and you should not need to water them additionally. Fertilize in fall when the roots start to grow and in spring when flowering starts with a granular bulb fertilizer.
When the bulb is done flowering, let the foliage die off naturally over several weeks. This is the period where nutrients are stored in the bulb for flowering next year. After the foliage dies off, they go into a dormancy period. Established clumps can be dug up and divided and replanted during the fall.
Plant crocus bulbs in the fall about 3 inches apart and 3 to 5 inches deep, with the pointed end up and the flat part down. Water them thoroughly after planting.
Crocus look best when grouped together to form drifts of color. They also are attractive planted in lawns. Be careful to not mow down the foliage until the leaves wither and brown, which usually coincides with the first lawn mowing of the season. They are also great for rock gardens or in more natural settings, such as along lightly wooded pathways.
Planting them in different areas around the yard can vary the flowering time. Bulbs in areas sheltered from wind will bloom slightly sooner than bulbs planted in areas exposed to the wind. This makes it possible to plan for blooms over a longer period of time.