When it comes to gardening, there always seems to be something new to learn. Even experienced gardeners may not know what to do with crocus bulbs after they have flowered. If you’re wondering the same thing, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Although crocuses are not particularly high maintenance, learning what to do with crocus bulbs after flowering will ensure that they return to brighten up your garden year after year.

Yellow and Purple Crocus
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What are Crocus Bulbs?

Crocus bulbs are the underground storage organs of the Crocus plant, containing the plant’s genetic material and nutrients required for growth. The term “bulb” is commonly used, but technically, crocuses grow from corms, which are similar to bulbs but have a different structure and growth pattern. They are often one of the first signs of spring, breaking through the snow with their colourful blossoms. Apart from their ornamental value, certain Crocus species, like Crocus sativus, are cultivated for saffron, a valuable spice derived from the flower’s stigmas.

What to Do With Crocus Bulbs After Flowering?

Crocus corms are notably winter-hardy and this hardiness allows them to remain in the ground throughout the winter, ready to bloom as one of the first harbingers of spring. However, while they can withstand the cold, crocuses do not like waterlogged conditions. Soggy, poorly drained soils can damage crocus corms, making them susceptible to rot. If your garden tends to retain water or has a history of waterlogging, it’s advisable to lift the corms at the end of the summer once the foliage has withered and died back for the year.

Crocus Corms with Crocus Flowers (inset)
Crocus Corms with Crocus Flowers (inset)

How to Cut Back Crocuses

Cutting back crocuses is not actually required, they can be left to wither and die on their own. If you wish to cut back the crocuses to keep your garden looking tidy, here’s how:

Step 1 – Remove Stem and Dead Head

As soon as the flower has faded and died, you will want to remove the stem and the faded bloom. This is to conserve the plant’s energy stores as the next stage in the plant’s life cycle would be trying to create seeds.

Step 2 – Leave the Foliage in Place

When removing the stem, be careful to leave the foliage in place until it dies back on its own. The leaves will continue to absorb energy from the sun and through photosynthesis, the sun’s energy is converted into vital sugars that are stored in the corm for the following season.

Step 3 – Leave Alone

Once all the foliage has died back and the corms have once again become dormant, there is nothing left for you to do. There is no need to water the area or tend to it at all until you fertilise it in the early spring. I did tell you that crocuses were low maintenance!

Crocus Flowers
Crocus Flowers

How to Lift and Divide Crocus Corms?

Every 3 to 4 years, crocus corms will self-propagate into clusters that can be separated to form new corms.

Steps 1 & 2

Steps 1 & 2 are the same as above. You will want to ensure that you remove the stem and deadhead the flower but continue letting the foliage continue to grow and absorb sunlight, therefore, refuelling the corm’s energy stores.

Step 3 – Lift Your Corms

Once the foliage has all but died back, you can lift your corms. Dig an area around the corms being careful not to scratch or scar them as this open wound can leave your corm susceptible to disease and rot.

Step 3 – Clean Your Corms

Once your corms have been lifted, they will require a clean. It is best to do this with a soft brush. Gently shake off any excess soil and then using a soft brush, give the corms a gentle clean.

Step 4 – Divide Your Corms

Once you have lifted your corms and brushed them off, you will see where the new corms have formed, and you will be able to just gently break these apart with your fingers.

Important: It is best to replant all of your corms old and new immediately in the places you wish them to grow next year.

Crocus Corms
Crocus Corms

How to Store Crocus Corms?

If you need to store your crocus corms for any reason, your corms will keep with no problems. We recommend using a cardboard box for storage as this will let the corms breathe as using plastics can cause the corms to sweat and rot. First, put a layer of newspaper in the bottom of the cardboard box and then add your first layer of corms being careful to ensure they are not touching one another. Cover with some newspaper and repeat. You will want to keep your box of corms in a cool, dark place such as the garage or basement or somewhere that is not too damp.

Conclusion

Crocus bulbs (corms) are extremely low maintenance and do not really take much in the way of looking after them. As long as you let the leaves continue to grow after the flower has gone, they will still be able to store enough energy to flower the next spring. Many people will just mow over the leaves once the flower has gone but this is not a good idea as you will end up with stunted crocuses the next spring and that is if they even grow at all. If you need to lift and store your crocus corms, it is not too difficult either providing you follow the steps that we have laid out for you, you will have beautiful crocuses year after year.

What to do with Crocus Bulbs after flowering Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“Replant stored corms in early spring once the ground has thawed!”

“Do not forget to leave the foliage in the ground until it dies back on its own. The corms need the foliage for photosynthesis!”

“Over time, crocus clusters will expand. Lift and separate corms every 3 years and plant a few elsewhere to establish new clusters!”

“If storing corms for winter, check on them every 4 weeks to ensure that none of them has rotted and gone mushy, if any have, throw them away immediately!”

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years do crocus bulbs last?

Crocus corms do not really like to be out of the ground but those that are in storage and cared for properly will last around 12 months before they require planting.

Do you have to dig up crocus bulbs every year?

No, crocuses do not need to be lifted every year. Crocuses will do fine being in the ground through the winter although it is a good idea to lift corms every 3 or 4 years to separate the corm clusters.

Can crocus bulbs be left in pots?

Yes, crocus corms can be left in pots as long as they are planted deep enough and are protected from heavy frost.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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