Interested in growing your own saffron at home?
Here is some information to get you started!
Plant your saffron corms (crocus sativus) late summer through early September, and they will bloom mid-October through mid-November.
Expect 1 or 2 flowers per corm (you may get more!).
Saffron corms prefer humus-rich, well-draining soil, with a pH of 6-8. Do not water at all during their dormant period (mid-May to September), when the leaves die back and the corms rest. From September through mid-May (during the period of leaf growth) keep the soil slightly moist, but do not over-water.
Prepare the ground by tilling (about 8 Inches deep) and add some organic fertilizer. If nitrogenous fertilizer is used it may be applied as a top dressing after planting.
Plant 4-8” deep, with 4-6” space between each corm. If you have hard freezes in your area, it is best to plant deeper to provide some protection. The saffron crocus is sun-loving and heat tolerant, so requires a sunny spot.
Each corm will multiply every year, the new cormlets growing on top of the old, so the plant gets shallower year on year. Eventually they will need to be dug up, separated and replanted into fresh soil (every 6 years or so depending on your original planting depth).
Keep the ground weed free; especially after planting.
Protect from rodents (gophers and voles love to nibble the corms).
You can also force the corms, as you would with narcissus for a beautiful tabletop garden. (To force, keep in a cold room or outdoors until flowers begin to appear).
Once the flowers bloom, you may choose to pick the long red stigmas out of the flowers to use for saffron, leaving the rest of the flower intact to enjoy, or harvest the whole flower.
Dry the stigmas on a paper towel overnight or for 20 minutes in a very low oven (150 degrees), until the threads are dry to the touch. Store in an airtight glass container in a dark cupboard. Your home-grown saffron will be ready to use in late January (dried saffron needs at least two months to cure to reach full potency).
For further reading about the cultivation of saffron, visit the UVM Website on Saffron Production.