March is the time of the year when we will begin to see some of those very early bulbs start to emerge and flower. One of the earliest bulbs is crocus. It is a great bulb to plant for an early addition of color to your landscape, and it goes dormant shortly after it blooms so it does not interfere with your landscape throughout the rest of the year.Technically, the part we plant is a corm, an underground stem, but to keep it simple, many people call it a bulb.
Crocus vernus is one of the earliest blooming minor bulbs. Crocus blooms in March or early April with flowers that have six petals, with the three on the outside often having stripes. The 2- to3-inch blooms can range in color from white to purple to yellow and will close up on cloudy days and at night. Crocus has grasslike foliage with a white stripe down the center of each blade. This plant will bloom before the foliage fully appears. Then, after only a few weeks, the whole plant is dormant again.
Many different hybrids and species of crocus are available. According to Kim Todd from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 'Flower Record' is a dark purple cultivar, 'Yellow Mammoth' is a yellow option, and 'Jeanne d'Arc' is a pure white choice. Another species, Crocus chrysanthus, or golden crocus, blooms even earlier in the spring but has smaller flowers. A few fall blooming species including Crocus medius and C. speciousus might be nice to try for fall color.
Crocus is a wonderful bulb to plant underneath trees or in a landscape bed. They grow most often in sun to part sun and prefer well-drained soils. They are not tolerant of standing water or heavy clay soils. They do well around tree roots and in lawns. The bulbs need to be planted at 3 inches and need protection from rabbit and squirrel damage as these animals like to eat them. The best protection against rabbits and squirrels would be to plant the bulb, place some chicken wire above it, and then cover it up with soil. This will keep the animals from digging it up.
According to the University of California, "Crocus" comes from the Latin word for saffron yellow. Roman women used crocus to dye their hair and their textiles yellow. Crocus was even used for trade in Europe as a loan for gold and jewels. The fall-blooming crocus is where the spice saffron comes from, which is a very expensive spice.
The crocus would be a great addition to any landscape, including acreages. It can be found in many different colors, sizes, and blooming times. It is a nice addition to get the first amount of color to your landscape to bring you out of the "winter blues."