How To Grow Fall Crocus

Fall crocus are indeed fall-blooming species of this popular spring-blooming bulb (a corm actually). The fall blooming species include: C. kotschyanus, C. sativus, C. ochroleucus, and C. niveus.

In general, they are more tender than the typical spring blooming Crocus vernus varieties but if you have the proper garden, they do indeed bloom in the late summer to early fall. While there are other fall blooming crocus grown by collectors, these are the ones most of us will encounter fairly easily.

How to Grow

Plant them 3 inches deep in sun to light shade.

The soil must be well-drained for all of them or you’ll winterkill them for sure.

Hardiness is variable in the fall crocus. You can try in a zone 5 if you mulch heavily but don’t bet the farm.

fall crocus
Crocus kotschyanus Image Courtesy

Plants to Look For

C. kotschyanus is fairly hardy into a USDA zone 5 if given a well drained but excellent soil. Let it get too wet in the winter and it’s toast however. The flowers range from white to pale lavender

C. sativus is one of the most grown plants because it is the source of the spice saffron. The bloom color is lilac-purple with darker purple veins. Unfortunately it is sterile and only increases by asexually (take baby corms) It is not a wild species but is thought to be a variety of C cartwrightianus. I note that this is a tender bulb (think zone 6-7 at the coldest) and if you grow it, you might find it refuses to bloom. One trick is to feed heavily with compost and plant slightly deeper than normal (go to 4-5 inches). Poor drainage kills it.

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C. ochroleucus is slightly hardier than C. sativus. Flowers are white and slightly scented and this plant will typically emerge in late fall in a zone 6-7. In a zone 4, it it will be seen in the planting bag and never again

C. niveus is another of the tender Greek fall crocus and it has huge white or lilac flowers in the fall. Generally a warm zone 6 garden will keep this one alive.

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