Crocus sativus (Saffron)

How to plant and grow Crocus sativus (Saffron)

Crocus sativus (Saffron) is a plant grown to collect stigmas (the part of the flower that receives pollen), which when dried and milled are a spice used in various culinary dishes, including famous dishes such as Spanish paella and French bouillabaisse. It is also used to color and flavor foods such as cheese, butter, sauces and drinks.

Common name: Saffron
Scientific name: Crocus sativus
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The plant has an underground corm from which the leaves and flowers emerge, which can reach 15 to 30 cm in height.
Each plant produces one or more flowers (up to 5 flowers) of violet, pink, red or white color annually.

Saffron is worth more than its weight in gold

The saffron spice, often called saffron crocus is aromatic and has a strong flavor seasoning the food with a natural taste.
In some places saffron is also used for medicinal and perfumery purposes.

Crocus sativus (Saffron) - saffron plant in soil -

Where does saffron grows best?

Saffron grows best in a subtropical climate, but can be grown in a cooler climate, as long as there is a period with temperatures suitable for growing for about six months.
The ideal are rainy springs and hot, dry summers, with rain or watering preceding flowering, which occurs in autumn, but without heavy rain or frost when the flowers bloom, as they can decrease or ruin the harvest.
Hot and humid weather is not suitable for growing this plant.


It should receive direct sunlight for at least a few hours daily. This plant has a short day photoperiod, requiring about 11 hours of light or less per day to bloom in the fall.


Cultivate preferably in light and well-drained soil, moderately fertile and rich in organic matter. The soil pH can be between 5.5 and 7.5.

Crocus sativus (Saffron) - red stigmas -
Crocus sativus (Saffron) flower showing red stigmas


Water the plant in order to keep the soil always moist in the spring months, but during the summer the availability of water should be minimal.
In early autumn, water again, suspending again when the flowers start to appear.

How to plant saffron

Saffron does not produce seeds, so planting is carried out exclusively by young corms, which are produced by the plant every year.

The corms must be placed in trenches, so that they are covered by 10 to 15 cm of soil.
The planting lines can be spaced 15 to 20 cm apart and, in large plantations, some planting lines must be spaced at least 50 cm apart to allow the movement of workers for maintenance and harvesting.  The plants can be 5 to 10 cm apart from each other.

Can we grow saffron at home?

Saffron can also be grown in pots and planters in home. It usually takes six plants to produce enough saffron to use in a medium-sized recipe.

Crocus sativus (Saffron) -

Growing saffron

Regularly remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients.

Although the plant can survive for more than a decade, after a period of cultivation of three to five years the plantation should normally be renewed, removing the corms available and planting in another location.
In some regions the plantation is renewed annually, especially where the winter can be severe, requiring corms to be removed from the soil and stored, but thus productivity is lower, as each plant generally produces only one flower in the first year. Y
Yield is higher in the second and third year of planting.

Harvesting saffron. How long does it take to grow saffron?

Flowering usually occurs in the fall, and flowers that are already open should be picked in the coolest hours of the day.
On the same day the stigmas must be separated and dried in the sun, or better yet, dried for a few minutes in a metal sieve over the fire, so that the air around the stigmas is at a moderately hot temperature (about 70°C for six minutes).
Inadequate drying at very high or very low temperatures can affect the quality of the saffron. After drying, saffron should be kept in closed opaque pots. About 100,000 to 200,000 flowers are needed to obtain one kilogram of dry saffron.

Crocus sativus (Saffron) - dried saffron -
Crocus sativus (Saffron) – dried saffron

Is saffron toxic?

Saffron can be toxic in large quantities. In the amount normally used in food preparation, its consumption is safe.

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