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Alabama Gardener

Alabama Gardener
December 30, 2013 |

When it’s too cold or wet to do much outside, gardeners start looking for something to do with plants indoors. For those looking for a flower to enjoy, orchids crocus is a versatile choice.

Crocus is easy to use indoors and out because of its small size. Inside, little pots can perch almost anywhere in the kitchen, bath or on a tabletop. In spring, the cluster of little plants can be transplanted to the garden where they will bloom the following winter.

Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

Crocus bulbs are actually members of the iris family. Native to the dry Mediterranean region, they don’t like wet ground, so select a spot that drains well.

There are more than 75 species of natural crocus, but the ones generally sold fall into a couple of categories: the small flowered, clumping “snow crocus,” typically sold for landscapes, and the slightly larger Dutch hybrid types good for blooming indoors.

Snow crocus, so called because they bloom very early, tend to naturalize and multiply even in a lawn, as long as the foliage of the plants is not mowed prematurely. These typically bloom in January and February in Alabama. Fall is when the majority of bulbs are sold in bags or bulk for planting in the garden.

Now is the time to enjoy the crocus sold in bloom at local garden centers. They should be placed in a cool, bright spot in the home. Avoid places where hot air or radiant heat will cause the blooms to fade more quickly. Use small pots of crocus along with small, houseplants typically sold in 2- to 6-inch pots, to create a pretty basket of foliage and color.

When the weather warms, the crocus can go in the garden, and the small houseplants can step up to larger containers for the summer.

Like all bulbs, crocuses have active and dormant periods. Fall is when most are dormant, so that’s when they can be handled easily (like an onion bulb). September and October are best times to buy these by the dozens. They will send up foliage about the time they bloom. It’s important to keep the foliage intact and healthy because that’s how the plants re-energize for next year’s blooms. Apply a bulb booster fertilizer right after they bloom.

An exception to the crocus mentioned above is the saffron or Fall Crocus (Crocus sativus), which blooms in the fall almost immediately after it is planted. The stamens of each saffron crocus are prized by cooks for the yellow color and unique flavor they lend to rice, soups and stews. These are not generally found in garden centers, but are easy to get from mail-order bulb companies in the fall. 

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