Saffron is a yellow-orange spice that comes from the bulb of the Crocus sativus plant species. Saffron is best grown in the home garden in a sunny spot where the soil drains well. The bulbs grow well in hot, sunny climates or during the dry warm season. In rainy climates, saffron bulbs can be grown indoors.
The typical planting time is midsummer for saffron bulbs. A spot in a sunny garden bed is best for these heat-loving flowers. Good soil drainage is critical as well, and rocky soil with low nutrient levels is ideal for flowering and saffron production. The bulbs thrive in soil with a pH between 7 and 8.
The bulbs should be planted in holes deep enough so that each one is covered by 6 inches (about 15 cm) of soil. A spacing between plants of 6 inches (about 15 cm) leaves enough room for each plant to develop and produce flowers. When planting saffron bulbs, the roots should be at the bottom of the hole with the stem facing up.
When planted in midsummer, saffron bulbs will bloom that same fall. When the flowers open, the stigma can be pinched off from the center of the flower. The fine orange dust is then collected in a jar for use in the kitchen.
Once established, saffron bulbs continually produce new bulbs, called offsets, as a means of self-propagation. To propagate saffron bulbs in the garden, the bulbs can be dug up and replanted. Late fall or early winter when the plant foliage dies back is the best time to dig saffron bulbs.
Not just for the herb and spice garden, saffron has delicate flowers that add ornamental value to the landscape. This bulb is well suited for mass planting in sunny areas or in a rockery. The upright nature of the plants make saffron flowers well suited for use as border plants along pathways and garden beds.
This heat-loving bulb, native to Southern Europe and West Asia, grows best in climates that have long, hot growing seasons. In cooler climates, saffron can be cultivated in the home garden but generally will not produce enough for commercial growing. Areas with wet rainy summers are not well suited for growing saffron bulbs.
In damp rainy climates, saffron can be grown indoors or in a greenhouse. A soil medium that drains well works best, such as one formulated for cacti and succulents. A temperature of 65°F (about 18° C) or above encourages saffron bulbs to grow and bloom successfully.