For many gardeners, the appear- ance of crocus signals the end of winter. Native to the Mediterranean region and the Caucasus, these low-growing plants have grasslike leaves, often with a silvery midrib; the foliage appears before, during, or after bloom, depending on the species. Flowers are 1123 in. long, with flaring or cup-shaped petals. They're available in a wide range of colors.
Most crocus bloom in late winter or earliest spring. Collectively, the earliest bloomers are known as snow crocus. Others bloom in fall, the owers rising from bare earth weeks or days after planting. Mass them for best effect. Lovely in rock gardens, between stepping stones, in containers. Set corms 23 in. deep and 34 in. apart in light, porous soil. Divide every 3 to 4 years. Don't bother planting crocus if your garden has chipmunksthese rodents will dig up and eat every one. Won't naturalize where winters are warm.
C. ancyrensis. Small golden yellow flowers. Blooms very early.
C. angustifolius. CLOTH OF GOLD CROCUS. Orange-gold, starlike owers with dark brown center stripe. Starts blooming in January in warmest areas, in March in coldest areas.
C. chrysanthus. Orange-yellow, sweet scented. Hybrids and selections range from white through yellow to blue, often marked with deeper color. Spring bloom. 'Blue Pearl' is palest blue; 'Cream Beauty', pale yellow; 'E. P. Bowles', yellow with purple markings; 'Ladykiller', outside purple edged white, inside white feathered purple; 'Princess Beatrix', blue with yellow center; and 'Snow Bunting', pure white.
C. imperati. Bright lilac inside, buff veined purple outside. Early spring.
C. kotschyanus. Pinkish lavender or lilac owers in early fall.
C. sativus. SAFFRON CROCUS. Lilac flowers appear in autumn; the orange-red stigma is true saffron. To harvest, pluck stigmas as soon as owers open, dry them, and store them in vials. Stigmas from a dozen blooms will season a good-size paella or similar dish. To continue good yields of saffron, divide corms as soon as leaves turn brown; replant in fresh or improved soil. Mark planting site so you won't dig up dormant corms
C. sieberi. Delicate lavender-blue flowers with golden throat. One of the earliest bloomers, with flowers appearing in January and February.
C. speciosus. AUTUMN CROCUS. Showy blue-violet owers in early fall. Lavender and mauve selections available. Fast increase by seed and division. Showiest autumn-owering crocus.
C. tommasinianus. Slender buds; star-shaped, silvery lavender-blue owers, sometimes with dark blotch at tips of petals. Very earlyJanuary or February in milder areas. Will form clumps in Upper, Middle, and Lower South gardens.
C. vernus. DUTCH CROCUS. Most vigorous and largest flowered crocus, with blooms in shades of white, yellow, lavender, purple; flowers are often penciled or streaked. Blooms in February and March.