SpicesEdible Plants

How To Grow Saffron?

Saffron

Are you planning to grow saffron but need to know how to do it? Let our expert step-by-step guide help you in this matter. 

Quick Answer

Plant its bulbs in a moist, well-drained place under direct sunlight to grow saffron. Ensure the soil is rich in nutrients. You can add mulch or any organic matter. The right time to grow saffron is in late summer. Saffron is perfect for growing in zone 6 and above. Place them 3 to 5 inches deep in the soil and keep the bulbs at least 6 inches apart. 

Saffron requires moderate maintenance, so you don’t have to worry much about its growth. Keep reading, and you will know everything related to its development, care, and harvesting. 

What Is Saffron? 

Saffron plants

Saffron is an expensive spice – belonging to the Crocus sativus (Iris family). The herb comprises red stigmas of saffron crocus flowers.

It is an autumn plant, and almost 85% is grown in Asia (Iran, India), Spain, the US, Italy, and France. 

It is indeed a beautiful plant having bright purple flowers with red stigmas. It is worth gold because only one flower blooms on a bulb, making it desirable.

You can collect only 3 strands of saffron spice from one flower. So, to get one gram of saffron, you will need to grow 150 saffron bulbs. The average sale price for saffron is $10,000 per pound.

Saffron is famous for its aromatic flavor. Culinarily, it is used in many Spanish dishes like paella and stews. You can use it in seasoning dishes like fish, risotto, and curries. People also use it as a food coloring agent. 

Benefits of Saffron

Let’s look at some benefits you can get from saffron:

  • Contains antioxidants like crocin, safranal, and kaempferol
  • Helps improve a person’s mood, memory, and learning ability 
  • Fights depression and anxiety
  • Reduces PMS (premenstrual symptoms)
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Improves eyesight
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases 

How To Grow and Care for Saffron?

Saffron plants

Before starting to grow saffron, you must buy crocus corms (just like a bulb). Let’s know where you can get these corms.  

Where To Get Saffron Corms?

You can purchase saffron crocus corms from a local nursery or an online store. If you wish to buy it from a local nursery, ensure it is in a hot climate, usually within zones 6 to 9.

Growing saffron is relatively easy. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to grow and care for saffron. Let’s have a look. 

Site Selection

Select a land where no cultivation has been done before. Ensure the place is dry. The right amount of sunlight is beneficial for saffron’s optimal growth.

If you are thinking about the right time to plant saffron, you should go in September or October. 

Prepare Your Soil

Saffron grows well in well-drained and calcium-rich soil, with a pH of 6 to 8. Prepare your soil by adding organic composite (about 10 inches deep) before planting saffron corms.

You can also add peat or shredded leaves for extra nutrition. It will help saffron survive through winter.

In case of drought during autumn or spring, ensure the irrigation of your land.

During winter, if your soil is not drained well, it will start rotting, and your saffron plant will wilt. So, the ground you selected should be dry and thoroughly drained.

Plant Saffron 

You can sow your crocus corms in your yard directly. Remember to place your bulbs between 3 to 5 inches deep in the soil.

If you often face the attacks of rodents and other pests in your garden, you can use milk crates, containers, and pots as an alternative.

Spacing 

Saffron is planted in many different countries, with varying spacing techniques. In Italy, gardeners place their corms 2-3 cm apart and about 15 cm deep. This technique leads to whole blossoms every season.

Greek farmers plant their corms at a 12 cm distance and 15 cm deep. However, two rows are 25 cm apart. In contrast, Spanish farmers place their corms at 6 cm and rows at 2 cm.

Water Your Corms

Saffron is an autumn plant. You need to keep the soil moist.

Avoid water logging. Watering it 2 to 3 times per week is more than enough. 

Use Fertilizer

Using fertilizer can help in optimal growth. So, feeding it once a season will be good. If spring is short in your area, fertilize in early fall.

If the spring is extended and temperate, fertilize right after your saffron flowers bloom. Speaking of which, it will take only 6 to 8 weeks for the corms to flower. 

How To Harvest Saffron?

Dried Saffron

If you planted saffron in the late spring, the blossoms would be ready to harvest by mid-October.

Harvest the flowers partially closed for the best flavor and aroma. Follow these steps to harvest your saffron properly. 

Step #1: Stripping

Pluck your saffron flowers and take them to a clean environment. Use a pair of tweezers to separate the red strands.

Please don’t cut the white or yellow part of the flower, as they are not included in the spice.

Step #2: Drying

You can dry saffron with a paper towel and put it in an airtight container.

You can also dry it over hot coal, gas stove, charcoal, or hot plate. But the temperature limit is 176 Fahrenheit (80 Celsius). 

Here is a step-by-step process to dry saffron if you have an oven.

  1. Line your plate or wire mesh with baking paper. 
  2. Spread the saffron threads on it.
  3. Place it in the oven. 
  4. The temperature should be 140 to 176 Fahrenheit (60 to 80 Celsius).

After the threads are dried, wrap them in tissue and place them in a cool dark corner. Make sure to use it within 6 months of harvesting. 

Possible Problems

Like every other plant, saffron also has the following problems.

Problem #1: Pests

Small mammals like rabbits, rodents, voles, and gophers take saffron bulbs as a tasty treat. It often happens in winter because of food shortages.

Another pest that endangers saffron is a saffron bulb mite. This beetle-looking creature causes the plant to grow abnormally. 

Problem #2: Plant Diseases

Saffron could face corm rot – a fungal disease. You can prevent it by avoiding overwatering. Another way is to choose thoroughly drained soil.

You can prevent this by providing ideal growing conditions for the plant before planting them.

Conclusion

Saffron is an expensive spice but desired worldwide. It has purple flowers and is used as a seasoning in many dishes.

You can grow it quickly at home in drained soil under direct sunlight. But you must follow specific tips and tricks for better nourishment and flavor. 

Now that you know how to grow saffron, you can experiment in your garden. If you succeed, it will be profitable for you.

Also, you can use it while cooking without spending a penny. 

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