Foodies may be familiar with this garden bulb because of the saffron crocus flower. While not as coveted as the flowers from which saffron is gathered, the common varieties that you'll find in garden centers in Chicago are just as valuable for a gardener.
Crocus: A Profile of a Garden Bulb.
By the time you read this one of my favorite garden bulbs to plant in my garden will likely be done blooming throughout Chicago. The crocus isn't as popular as the tulip or daffodils in urban gardens in the city. While the flowers are colorful and can make the careful plant observer stop for a closer look, they are rather short and easy to overlook. These wonderful flowers don't grace the florist shops and bouquets like other early spring garden bulbs. It is my belief that their diminutive size keeps them from being more popular as garden bulbs.
Crocuses (or croci) provide color in your garden when it is needed most in the early spring. These little flowers aren't just beautiful--they're tough--they survive the cold spring rains, hail and snows with ease.
The crocus blooms above are mostly spent but I'm posting the photo to illustrate another reason why I love to plant these bulbs. The grass-like leaves of the crocus bulb fully emerge when the flowers begin to fade. Even after the flowers are gone the leaves of the crocus are beautiful and green up the drab early spring garden. Planted in the edge of beds or pathways the leaves spill over and soften stone paths and walkways.
If you're more of a lawn person than a gardener the crocus can be your best friend. They can be planted under your lawn without damaging either the lawn or your equipment, after the flowers are done the leaves of the crocus can make your lawn appear green before any other lawn in the neighborhood. The long leaves will shade weeds and seeds that have made it into your lawn making it harder for them to thrive and easier for you to remove by hand without using harmful chemicals. By the time your lawnmower has to be brought out for the first cut of the season the leaves of the crocus will either be dying down or can be cut along with the grass.
Crocuses also make great bulbs to plant if you're thinking of removing your lawn entirely. They naturalize, meaning they create more and more, well in Chicago and can give you the "grass look" without the time and expense needed to maintain grass.
I usually buy crocus bulbs in the fall at the grocery store ALDI, a box of 40-50 bulbs is somewhere around $6.00.