Crocus crocus

(kro' cuss)

Common name: Dutch Crocus, plural "crocuses"

Family: Iridaceae, Iris

Height x width: 6" x 3"

Growth rate: fast, early

Foliage: linear and grass-like to 4" long emerging from base at time of flowering or just after, often with central white stripe; withering early in season

Flowers: among earliest spring flowers in March-April, white to purple and often striped, wrapped in sheathing bracts as they emerge, balloon-like appearance when closed at night and cloudy days, star-like when open, overlapping flower lobes

Hardiness: hardy bulb, zones 3-8

Soil: organic, well-drained, sandy loam prefered; tolerates many

Light: sun, part shade (remain closed in heavy shade)

Pests and problems: scab, dry rot, corm rot, blue mold (Penicillium), rust-- none serious, only occasional; rodents and small mammals eg squirrels, chipmunks and mice eatLandscape habit, uses: naturalized in lawns (leave until leaves die--about 4 weeks after mowing starts), rock gardens, tree bases, massed in borders

Other interest: native to So. Europe; saffron spice used to color and flavor food is from the dried stigmas of sativus, 7000 flowers needed to produce an ounce of saffron, used in ancient times to 1500 BC to dye textiles, used medicinally in Kashmir as early as 500 BC; still farmed in Spain, India, Russia, Asia

Other culture: may need to protect from animal feeding by planting in fine mesh wire cages if these are a problem

Propagation: division of cormels formed on sides of corm most common; seeds produced underground

Species: about 80 divided roughly into 3 groups by habitats:

1. well-drained, sunny sites-- found along coasts, stony hillsides and mountains; rainfall peaks in fall to winter; native to Mediterranean to central Asia

2. well-drained and sunny but tolerant of damp soils-- found in transitional zones along sourthern shores of Caspian and Black Seas having intermittent summer rain, includes chrysanthus

3. moist sunny sites--as in mountain pastures and moist meadows, doesn't need warm and dry dormancy, intermittent year-round rain in native habitats, includes common species vernus and tommasinianus

ancyrensis (an-cir-en' siss)--Crimean Crocus, very early, leaves appearing with yellow 1-3 flowers, cold hardy to zone 6

angustifolius (an-gus-ti-fol' ee-us) (susianus)--Cloth-of-Gold Crocus, native to SW Russia, leaves appear with many yellow flowers early, cold hardy to zone 4

biflorus (bii-flor' us)--Scotch Crocus, native to Asia Minor, hardy to zone 4, often white with purple stripes, silvery leaves

chrysanthus (chra-san' thus)--Snow or Golden Crocus, species flowers are bright orange while cultivars have varied colors, 1-4 scented flowers, earlier than vernus, cold hardy to zone 4, leaves appearing with flowers

imperati subsp. imperati (im-per-ah' tee)--Italian Crocus, native to So. Italy, early, large fragrant purple and white flowers, leaves appearing with the 1-2 flowers, cold hardy to zone 7

korolkowii (core-ol-ko' wee-ii)--Turkish Crocus, cold hardy to zone 6, native to Asia Minor, leaves appearing with the 3-5 scented flowers, yellow flowers usually with some green or orange

kotschyanus subsp. kotschyanus(cot-ski-aa' nuss)--native to Asia Minor, cold hardy to zone 5, rose with golden yellow throat, several other subsp. and white cultivar 'Albus'

x luteus (luu-tee' us)--of 17th century garden origin, common yellow spring crocus, triploid, flowrs orange to yellow

sieberi subsp. sieberi (sii-ber-ii')--cold hardy to zone 7, leaves appearing with flowers, 3 mauve or white and yellow within, scented, outside of flowers often striped, native to Greece

speciosus subsp. speciosus (spee-see-o' sus)--Showy Crocus, cold hardy to zone 4, leaves appearing after flowers, one scented flower


tommasinianus (tome-ma-sin-ee-aa' nus)--pale lavender early 1-2 flowers, supposedly squirrel resistant, cold hardy to zone 5, leaves appearing with flowers, native to Yugoslavia

vernus subsp. vernus (ver' nuss)--cold hardy to zone 4, leaves appearing with flowers, one flower, species of most common cultivars, native to Europe

Cultivars species flowers other
'Ard Schenk' pchrysanthus white long lasting
'Barr's Purple' tomasinianus lilac inner, purple outer  
'Big Ben' vernus white, blue stripes  
'Blue Bird' chrysanthus lavender blue creamy edges
'Blue Ice' chrysanthus white, blue oval marks  
'Blue Pearl' chrysanthus blue, bronze base  
'Dutch Yellow' x luteus yellow, large  
'E.A. Bowles' chrysanthus butter yellow basal bronze veining
'Enchantress' vernus light purple, silvery  
'Firefly' sieberi violet rose, orange center  
'Flower Record' vernus dark purple good in containers
'Fuscotinctus' chrysanthus gold, brown striping  
'Golden Bunch' ancyrensis deep orange-yellow  
'Goldilocks' chrysanthus deep yellow purple-brown base
'Haarlem Gem' vernus lilac blue  
'Herald' chrysanthus gold, plum striping  
'Jeanne d'Arc' vernus pure white  
'Lady Killer' chrysanthus violet outer, white inner  
'Paulus Potter' vernus purple, whitish margins  
'Peter Pan' vernus white, orange stigmas  
'Pickwick' vernus lilac, silvery, striped  
'Queen of the Blues' vernus soft blue  
'Remembrance' vernus purple, silvery, early  
'Ruby Giant' vernus magenta, whitish inner  
'Striped Beauty' vernus lilac, white stripes  
'Tricolor' sieberi purple white, gold throat
'Yellow Mammoth': 'Dutch Yellow'      
'Zenith' chrysanthus blue late
'Zwanenburg Bronze' chrysanthus bronze outer, yellow inner  

(cultivar photo courtesy Missouri botanical garden plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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