Saffron is the world’s most valuable spice, so you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually quite easy to grow at home. I know I was. So when I learned of this possibility, I knew I had to try it for myself.
This has been a delightful learning experience, and I’m here to share the insights and tips I’ve gathered. In this post, I’ll provide some background on this delicious, albeit expensive spice and then describe in detail how you can successfully grow it in your own home garden.
Saffron, often dubbed the “Golden Spice,” boasts a rich history that traces back over 4,000 years. Originating in ancient Persia, this luxurious spice quickly became a sought-after commodity, traveling along trade routes to Asia, Europe, and North Africa. Revered for its vibrant color, unique aroma, and medicinal properties, saffron has been used in culinary
dishes, traditional medicines, and even as a textile dye.
The spice is derived from the delicate red stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower. This is the flower you see below and probably what you picture when you think of spring bulbs and cottage gardens. Each flower produces only three stigmas, which are hand-harvested, making saffron one of the most labor-intensive spices to produce.
Today, while saffron is grown in various parts of the world, Iran stands as the largest commercial producer, contributing to over 90% of the global saffron supply. The meticulous process of cultivation and harvesting, combined with its multifaceted uses, cements saffron’s status as one of the world’s most treasured spices.
Why grow saffron?
Just the appearance of these cute little flowers and the rich history behind them seem like reason enough to add saffron to your garden. But, if you still need some convincing, I’ve got plenty more reasons to grow this delightful flower.
Saffron blooms in fall
If you love growing spring bulbs, you’ll love growing saffron. It’s really a similar process, except you’re rewarded with blooms in the fall rather than spring. This means that right as the garden gets quiet, and you’re tasked with the chores of garden cleanup and planting spring bulbs, you get to enjoy some colorful blooms!
Grow a new spice for your pantry
Most gardeners enjoy growing herbs in their garden. So, you probably already appreciate how rewarding it is to cook with your own homegrown ingredients. But how many gardeners do you know that grow saffron? It’s rather uncommon and makes for a most unique and flavorful addition to meals. Paella anyone?
Health benefits of saffron
Beyond its value in recipes, saffron also offers unique medicinal properties. This includes high levels of antioxidants, potential cancer fighting properties, and it may even help to improve mood and depressive symptoms. For this reason, some even call it the “Sunshine spice.”
Incorporate saffron into your landscaping
Saffron is a wonderful edible landscaping plant. So, unlike, many edible plants or vegetables, saffron won’t look out of place simply worked into your landscaping. It’s a low-growing flower, perfect for garden borders or small unused spaces.
How to Grow Saffron
Still here? I’m pretty sure you’re convinced it deserves space in your garden, so let’s discuss how to grow saffron!
Selecting a Suitable Location
The right spot can make all the difference, here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a location for your saffron plants.
- Light Requirements: Ensure your chosen spot receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Saffron plants thrive in such conditions.
- Drainage Requirements: Opt for well-draining soil. Saffron plants don’t take kindly to waterlogged conditions.
- Space Requirements: While they start small, saffron plants need room to grow (they multiply and spread). Aim for a spacing of about 6 inches apart. As an example, this photo is from the first year of blooms from my saffron, while the other photos used above were taken just one year later- lots more flowers in just a year!
If ground space is limited, or you’re keen on keeping your saffron plants mobile, they adapt well to container gardening. This is how I started my saffron journey, and it’s a method I can vouch for.
Planting and Care
From purchasing the right corms to the actual planting process, here’s a step-by-step guide.
- Purchase quality corms: Start with healthy corms from a reputable source. I get mine and lots of other bulbs, seeds, and corms online from Eden Brothers.
- Prepare the Soil: Loosen the soil and ensure it’s well-aerated. This helps the corms establish themselves faster and is a practice I’ve found beneficial, especially when preparing for spring bulbs and fall vegetables.
- Fertilize: A balanced fertilizer can give your corms the initial boost they need.
- Planting: Plant the corms about 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. This depth protects them from surface fluctuations in temperature and moisture.
Ongoing Care and Harvesting
Once planted, saffron requires minimal care. However, when it’s time to harvest, a gentle touch is needed:
The best time to harvest is in the morning. Ensure the plants are dry so the stamens won’t be soggy when you harvest and dry them. You can either snip the flowers or use tweezers to pluck the stamens. I opt for the latter so that I can continue to enjoy the purple blooms in the garden as long as possible
Drying and Storing
This is similar to how you may already dry herbs grown in your garden. Spread the saffron threads on a dish, ensuring they’re spaced out for good airflow. Place the dish in a sunny, dry spot. Once dried, store them in an airtight container.
Enjoy your homegrown saffron!
Growing saffron has been a delightful experience for me, and I hope this guide inspires you to embark on your own saffron gardening journey. If you loved this post, you should definitely check out our post on edible landscaping for more ways to work edible plants into your yard. For more fall beauty, check out our posts on fall planters, how to grow mums, and fall porch decor. Want more bulb garden Inspo? Check out our list of bulbs to plant in fall, then how to plant those spring bulbs. Happy gardening!