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The Crocus has been cultivated in Palestine since the time of Solomon. The original Greek “Krokos” was later Latinized to its present form and means “saffron”.
The fiery golden stigmas of the species C. sativus produce that most delicately flavoured spice, saffron. The 80 species are members of the iris family native to the Mediterranean and South western Asia.
They demand long, hot, dry summers, cold winters and prolonged cool spring weather. New Zealand’s weather favours growing the spring flowering species although autumn flowering varieties are also available.
Grow in sun to semi-shade in light, enriched soils. If planted in a warm, well drained spot angled into the winter sun they will put up a brave show opening wide in the late winter snow.
They naturalize well In lawns or massed under deciduous trees, and look effective in rock gardens or in containers. Plant the corms 5cm deep and 7cm apart. Deeper planting stops the corms from splitting into many tiny cormlets.
Flower colours favour purple, blue, white and yellow shades but hybrids exist in soft pastels and exotic stripes. Let the foliage ripen completely after flowering to build strength for next year’s flowering.