Introduction to Growing Organic Saffron in Containers
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly called the “saffron crocus”. Saffron is a unique and delicious spice that creates the signature flavor in several dishes. Although the plant is easy to grow, it is the most expensive of all spices. To obtain saffron, the stigmas should be handpicked, contributing to the preciousness of this spice. Saffron needs well-draining soil. If saffron is planted in poorly draining soil, it will rot.
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Organic Saffron in Containers and Pots
Saffron plants can be grown in the garden or you can put this crocus bulb in containers. Saffron is easy to grow, even indoors, but requires patience. Many gardeners trying to grow saffron find that they are not getting flowers on their plants, although the plants are very healthy.
Organic Soil Preparation for Growing Saffron in Containers
Saffron needs rich, well-drained soil with a pH level of 6.5. Saffron needs plenty of space and soil. Its corms are typically planted 2 to 4 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches apart. Plant individual corms in 6-inch-wide and 8-inch-deep pots, or plant up to 5 corms in a cross formation in a 12-inch-wide, 8-inch-deep pot. Whatever size pot, make sure it has at least 2 drainage holes at the base because saffron will quickly die in wet soil.
Although saffron doesn’t need as much organic matter or nitrogen as most of your garden vegetables, it does need deep loose soil to grow well. Most herbs can get by with 6 inches of good soil. For saffron plants, 8 inches of soil depth is better.
Heavy clay soils are not suitable for growing saffron and need to be amended with peat, compost, or coconut coir before planting. Good drainage is also necessary. Do not plant saffron corms in locations susceptible to standing water. Add a few inches of compost to the saffron bed annually to maintain soil fertility. Also, covering saffron beds with mulch after flowering each year will help control moisture levels in the soil and then protect corms from potential rot damage.
Choose Containers for Growing an Organic Saffron
Choose a clay pot with adequate draining for growing Saffron. Terracotta pots are a great option for Saffron. Check the pot to make sure it has at least 2 drainage holes. Saffron doesn’t do well in soil that’s kept wet, so the water needs to be able to drain out thoroughly in a breathable pot. Think about how many corms you’ll be planting and select a pot that will fit all of them if desired. You’ll need to space each corm out at least 2 inches from the others, so pick a pot that can hold however many corms you’re planting.
Conditions Required for Growing an Organic Saffron in Containers
- Saffron needs plenty of space and soil. Fill the bottom half of the pot with a gritty, fast-draining soil mixture such as equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, and milled peat. Arrange corms on the soil with the root end down, and nestle them onto the surface. Cover them with a 2-inch-thick layer of soil.
- Create a layer of coarse sand at the bottom of your pot. The bottom of the pot should be filled with a gritty mixture that drains quickly. Coarse sand is a popular option, but you can also choose fine gravel or a mixture of things like milled peat and potting soil. Fill the bottom of the pot so that the layer is a little more than one-sixth of the pot’s depth. For example, create a mixture of equal parts potting soil, milled peat, and coarse sand. You can find all of these materials at your local garden store.
- Fill the rest of the pot with well-draining potting soil. With your gritty layer finished, fill the rest of the pot with well-draining potting soil that can be purchased at your local nursery or hardware store. Leave at least 2–3 inches of space from the top of the pot when filling it with soil. You’ll add a layer of soil over the corms when you plant them, making it important not to fill the pot up with soil.
- Space the corms 2–3 inches apart in holes 4 inches deep. Saffron corms need plenty of space to be able to grow, so placing them at least 2–3 inches apart from each other is best. Dig holes for each of your corms using a spade or shovel that is roughly 4 inches deep.
- If your corms are super small and not 2 inches tall, make your hole more shallow to avoid covering them up with too much soil.
Process of Growing Organic Saffron in Containers
Growing saffron indoors requires soil that drains well and a sunny or partly sunny location. Plant the crocus bulbs 3 inches deep and 2 inches apart. Crocus bulbs are very small and have a slightly rounded top. Plant the bulbs with the pointed top facing upwards. Sometimes it is hard to tell which side is up. If this happens, just plant the Crocus bulb on its side; the root action will pull the plant upwards.
Prepare the soil with organic matter. Till the location where you will plant your corms, and work organic matter 10 inches deep into the soil. You can use compost, peat, or shredded leaves. This provides nutrients for the crocus bulbs to survive through the winter.
Find a planting location with well-draining soil and full sun. Select an area of land that gets a good amount of direct sunlight. Dig into the soil to make sure that it’s not too hard or packed too tightly. Crocus bulbs can die if they become waterlogged, so you need soil that drains effectively.
Water the Crocus bulbs once planted and keep the soil moist. The plant will appear in early spring and then produce leaves but no flowers. Once the hot weather hits, the leaves dry up and the plant becomes dormant until the fall season. Then when cooler weather arrives, there is a new set of plant leaves and a beautiful lavender flower. This is when the saffron should be harvested. Do not remove the foliage right away, but wait until later in the season.
Purchase crocus corms. The purple-flowered saffron plant grows from the crocus corm (which is similar to a bulb). These corms should be purchased fresh, just before planting. You can order them online, or buy them from a local nursery.
Plant the bulbs 10-15 cm deep and the same distance apart in late summer in well-prepared soil with lots of added bulky organic matter, such as planting compost. Heavy clay soils may need the addition of sharp grit or gritty sand to improve drainage.
Bulbs can also be planted in containers, using good potting compost.
Step 1) Plant bulbs as soon as possible after receiving them.
Step 2) Decide on a planting style;
- Plant crocus bulbs close together to form a cluster, this method creates a full showy colorful display. Space 12 bulbs per square foot.
- For a more natural look, plant bulbs speckled throughout a garden.
- Plant in a container with well-draining soil.
Step 3) To plant, dig a hole 2-4 inches deep for each bulb. Plant bulb pointy side up. If the crocus bulbs are being planted in poor soil conditions, add a layer of organic compost, bone meal, or mix around the crocus bulbs. Back-fill with soil and water thoroughly to remove air pockets.
Tips for Growing Organic Saffron in Containers
- Potted saffron is a beautiful addition to any autumn garden. You must choose an appropriately sized container for the number of bulbs you wish to plant, and you should fill the container with somewhat loamy soil.
- Place the containers where the plants will receive at least 5 hours of sunlight daily. Plant the bulbs 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart and keep the soil moist but not overly saturated. Do not remove the foliage right away after blooming, but wait until late in the season to cut the yellow leaves.
- Find a large container and fill it with a commercial potting mix that drains well. Saffron will not thrive in waterlogged soils.
- Site your bulbs where they will get full day sun or light shade. Saffron prefers average amounts of moisture in the spring but does the best in dry sites in the summer when they are dormant. You may want to move your containers seasonally to accommodate this.
- Dig holes and plant the crocus bulbs 3-4 inches deep and 2-3 inches apart. The bulbs are small and rounded, with slight pointed tops and plant with the points facing upwards.
- After planting, water your bulbs well, thoroughly soaking the area. Roots will form in the autumn. Foliage will develop in the spring and flowers will follow in late summer through the fall season. While your bulbs may bloom the first season, don’t be concerned if they bloom for the first time next fall season. When in bloom feel free to trim the colorful stamens for cooking and drying for later use. This will not hurt the plants.
- The plant leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis, and strengthen the bulbs for the future. Water as needed during active growth periods; about 1 inch of moisture per week is a good estimate.
- If late in the season, the leaves yellow and die back, the foliage can be removed at this point. Your bulbs will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing phase. In the warmest areas, the foliage stays green until mid-spring when it will yellow and die back. When leaves are absent and the bulbs are dormant, withhold water.
Watering Saffron Plants
- Keep the soil moist when the crocus bulbs are growing and during flowering.
- Avoid over-watering. Prolonged wet soil will rot the saffron bulbs.
- Allow the soil to dry out when the bulbs are dormant.
When and How to Harvest Saffron
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- Saffron flowers are easy to cultivate. They are hardy and naturally resistant to insects and disease. The main problem is that each corm will only produce 1 flower, and each flower will only produce 3 saffron stigmas.
- Although flowers should appear 6-8 weeks after planting your bulbs, sometimes the flowers will not appear until the following fall, a full year after you plant your bulbs. In some cases, planting in spring can produce blooms in the fall season.
- In the center of each purple crocus flower, you should find 3 orange-red stigmas. Wait for a sunny day when the flowers are fully open, and carefully remove these stigmas from each of your crocus blooms using your fingers.
- Dry and store your saffron. Once you have carefully removed all of the saffron stigmas, lay them out on paper towels in a warm, dry place. Leave them alone for 1-3 days until they are completely dry. Dried saffron should be kept in a cool, dry place. You can store saffron in an airtight container for up to 5 years.
Commonly Asked Questions about Growing Saffron
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Why Saffron is so costly?
Harvesting the Saffron flowers can only be done by hand and it is real back-paining work and time-consuming process. The pain does not end there, the real task is the delicate operation to remove the 3 stigmas from each flower and throwing the remaining flower. The whole process cannot be automated. That is why this is the costliest spice in the World.
How much saffron do you get from one plant?
When you plant your saffron bulbs, place them in the ground at about 3 to 5 inches deep and at least 6 inches apart. About 50 to 60 saffron flowers will produce 1 tablespoon of saffron spice, so keep this in mind when figuring how many to plant.
When should you plant saffron bulbs?
Plant the saffron crocus bulbs in late summer, in pots or borders, in a warm, sunny spot. Space them 15 cm apart, at a depth of about 10 cm, then firm down the soil and water in well.
Is Saffron easy to grow?
Saffron is a purple fall-flowering crocus that is extremely easy to grow and must be planted in the late summer for blooms in just weeks. It yields the rust-colored, edible spice.
What is the highest quality saffron?
Kashmiri saffron is well known for its aroma and as a flavor in culinary preparation. Kashmiri saffron has a deep dark maroonish-purple hue. While Persian saffron has 70% of total world production, in case of quality Kashmiri saffron is the best and finest.
How long does it take to grow saffron?
Saffron Crocus creates quick jewel-toned flowers in the fall garden in about 6-10 weeks after being planted. They can be planted in containers on a patio or grown indoors.
Can I grow saffron indoors?
Saffron corms should be planted in the fall season, and indoors is the perfect climate for them as they do not tolerate wet soil.
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