It is impossible to plant too many crocus bulbs. It is always a thrill to indulge yourself a little in a plant you know you can count on, and crocus are inexpensive, reliable little jewels. They sparkle in spring gardens and keep coming back for years.
Crocus are among the smallest spring-blooming bulbs (they are corms, actually — gladiolus also grow from corms), but they bloom very early, long before daffodils and tulips have pushed their way up through the mulch. Their colors are luminous enough to notice as you (or your neighbors) drive past, but the experience of these little bulbs is much richer up close. They’re perfect for planting along a front walk, by the back stairs, or around the patio, where you’ll enjoy them when the weather is still too cold for a long walk in the garden. They open on bright days, and bloom for a week or more. After a cold, dark winter, crocus turn the lights of spring back on for gardeners.
There are nearly 100 species of crocus, but only a few are widely available. Pretty snow crocus and Siberian crocus are most commonly found in soft pastel colors. They are short, about four inches tall, and they bloom first, before the Dutch crocus (sometimes called giant crocus) come along. Dutch crocus aren’t really giants: the flowers are only four to six inches tall, but they are not subtle: when they bloom, their bold, saffron yellow, deep royal purple, crisp white, and fantastic pale purple pinstriped flowers seem to banish winter.
Like most small bulbs, crocus look best when they are planted by the handful, creating shimmering pools of color. Because they’re small, you don’t have to plant them very deep — toss a dozen bulbs in a shallow hole and cover them with just a couple of inches of soil. After they bloom in spring, let their short, grassy leaves fade naturally as they nourish the corms; your clumps of crocus will grow a little larger every year, and some spread by going to seed. After your initial investment in crocus, you’ll be delighted to see the dividends increase every spring.