Saffron, also known as saffron crocus, is a hardy perennial in the iris family. It is native to the mountains of southern Europe but has been cultivated for thousands of years. Today it is a highly prized spice. Safflower helps the plant grow through its short growing season and the fact that it needs full sun in order to produce its signature purple flowers. You can grow saffron from seeds or from safflower (also known as false saffron).
Safflower is a low-maintenance substitute for saffron crocus which requires more attention to grow properly. However, it does not have any of the same aroma or flavor as true saffron because it lacks the compounds that give it its distinctive odor and taste. If you do want to grow saffron instead of purchasing it commercially, here are 5 easy steps on how to do so in your own yard.
Grow saffron in pots
Saffron likes warmth and humidity, so a sunny window sill is a great place to start. Saffron likes soil that is constantly moist, not wet. You may use either potting soil or place a saffron crocus plant in a large bowl filled with soil. Water the plant regularly so that the soil is always slightly moist, not soggy.
Saffron likes well-drained soil. If the soil is too dry, the roots will rot. If the soil is too wet, the saffron crocus will rot. If the saffron crocus or its roots get too large, repot the plant into smaller containers. You can also remove the leaves once the flowers are fully open to encourage more blooming.
Grow saffron on the ground
Safflower can be grown in the ground like saffron crocus or it can be grown in pots. If you choose to grow saffron in the ground, prepare the soil in the fall and plant the seeds in the spring. If you choose to buy saffron crocus plants, follow the instructions on the package.
Report the saffron crocus into larger pots as it grows. Water the saffron crocus regularly so that the soil is always slightly moist, not soggy. This is the only way to grow saffron in the ground. You cannot grow saffron in a pot in the ground.
Safflower is short-lived
Safflower blooms for only a few weeks in the spring, followed by the plant dying down for the summer. If you grow saffron in the ground like safflower, re-pot the saffron crocus into larger pots as it grows. Safflower has a short lifetime, so it is not a good choice for long-term cultivation. It is a good choice for growing in small backyard gardens or as a potted plant in the front yard.
Saffron crocus can be purchased at the grocery store
Saffron crocus is easy to grow but finding it is not so easy. You may find the spice at health food stores or at farmer’s markets. Alternatively, you can buy saffron crocus online and have it shipped to your home. You can also grow saffron yourself, as explained above. Of course, you could plant saffron crocus in your garden.
Safflower does well in full sun but will not produce the same luxurious yellow flowers as the saffron crocus. You can grow saffron crocus in your garden in the fall, winter, and spring. Plant the seeds during the autumn, soak them overnight and then sow them in the spring. However, saffron crocus grows best in a Mediterranean-type climate.
Storage tips for saffron
Saffron has a high oil content and will go rancid quickly if it is not stored properly. The best place to store saffron is where the temperature is between 32 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In an air-tight container, saffron can last up to 3 years. You can also store saffron in an air-tight jar with a tightly sealed lid. If you put the saffron in a jar with a lid, you will need to remove the lid every day and let the saffron air out for about 30 minutes.
Saffron is a rare and expensive spice, but it is possible to grow your own. Safflower is a less expensive substitute for saffron that requires less attention, but it does not have the same aromatic properties or flavor as true saffron. You can grow saffron from seeds or from safflower, which is also known as false saffron.