You know spring has begun when crocuses begin to grow, even through the snow. Their cheerful hues of white, yellow, and lavender are most welcome after a winter of muted browns and grays. First to appear are the narrow, strap-like leaves. Then the cup-shaped flowers emerge, opening into bright 6-petaled stars.
Growing crocuses is easy, but you have to plan ahead. Purchase their bulb-like corms in September for best selection. Planting in early fall gives the roots time to grow before the ground freezes. Set them 3 – 4 inches deep in amended soil, where they can remain for years. After bloom, remove the faded flowers and feed the plants with an all-purpose fertilizer. Let the foliage dry naturally as the corms go dormant.
Crocuses are effective used as edging or massed for a natural effect. For something different, scatter them into a lawn, where they will bloom before the grass starts to grow.
Contributed by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener. Photograph also by Leslie Holzmann. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Access fact sheets and seasonal information on the El Paso County Horticulture Website http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/horticulture/. (A version of this article appeared in The Gazette on 4/18/09.)