Crocuses Pack a Powerful Punch

Plant these tough little bulbs in the fall for the earliest hint of spring.
crocus blooms

crocus blooms

For the best effect, plant crocuses in masses or drifts, especially in grassy areas where they can naturalize.

For the best effect, plant crocuses in masses or drifts, especially in grassy areas where they can naturalize.

Just when you think the cold, dreary days of winter couldn’t get any bleaker, up pops a small but sure sign that spring is on its way. Crocuses are among the first blossoms to emerge in late winter, and if you want to welcome their arrival, the time to plant these little bulbs is now.

Their cup-shaped flowers, ranging from white to yellow to purple and even bi-colors, bloom on 2- to 4-inch-tall stems with grass-like foliage as early as January. (There are fall-blooming varieties as well; they’re planted in late summer and produce flowers without foliage.) Like most bulbs, they look best planted in masses or drifts, and because they are perennial, crocuses naturalize easily, giving you more bang for your buck with each passing year. And an added bonus: For the most part crocuses are squirrel, rabbit and deer proof.

One of my favorites among the spring varieties is Crocus tomasinianus, with a bluish-purple flower that blooms in mild climates in January or February. Combine it with miniature daffodils, such as ‘Tete-a-Tete’, ‘Howera’ and ‘Quail’, because their bright yellow flowers make the purple pop even more. Others worth considering are ‘Golden Bunch’ (yellow), ‘Ard Schenk’ (white), ‘Ruby Giant (reddish purple), ‘Bowles White’ (white with golden yellow throats), and ‘Flower Record’ (pale violet).

Crocus planting and care tips:

  • Give them full sun, though some varieties can tolerate part shade.
  • Provide well-drained soil and work in organic matter such as compost to 10 inches or more deep.
  • Plant the bulb-like corms in groups or clusters several inches apart instead of rows for best effect.
  • Plant bulbs pointed end up about 3 to 4 inches deep.
  • Apply a balanced fertilizer in early fall.
  • Keep beds watered if it’s a dry fall and cover with mulch before winter.
  • Remove mulch in February so that shoots can more easily emerge.
  • Don’t have a garden? Fear not, crocuses can easily be forced into bloom indoors!
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