Autumn Crocus Crocus longiflorus
Crocus longiflorus, commonly known as the long-flowered crocus, is a bulbous perennial known for its early spring bloom. This plant typically displays slender, grass-like leaves that are a glossy green, often featuring a faint, silvery central stripe that runs along their length. The leaves emerge from the base of the plant, creating a tufted appearance at ground level. The most striking feature of the long-flowered crocus is its flowers. They emerge on slender stalks, standing erect and separate from the foliage. The flowers are typically shaped like slender cups or chalices and can exhibit a range of colors from a vibrant purple to lighter shades such as mauve or occasionally white. Each bloom is composed of six petal-like segments that flare out at the top, creating a star-like pattern when viewed from above. The flowers have a bright orange or yellow center, which is made up of the stamens and stigma, contrasting beautifully with the petal colors. Often one of the first signs of spring, the long-flowered crocus brings a splash of color to gardens after the winter months. It can often be found poking through the last remnants of snow or winter mulch, heralding the change of seasons. The plant's flowers are delicate and ephemeral, typically closing at night or on cloudy days and re-opening with the morning light. The long-flowered crocus does not only add beauty to garden spaces but also provides an early source of nectar for pollinators such as bees, which are attracted to the bright colors and the promise of food after a long winter. Despite the delicate appearance of its blooms, the long-flowered crocus is relatively hardy, capable of withstanding late-season frosts and colder climates provided it is planted in well-drained soil and a spot that receives sufficient sunlight.
About this plant
Autumn Crocus, Long-Flowered Crocus
Crocus serotinus subsp. longiflorus, Crocus longiflorus var. hortensis.
Crocus longiflorus, commonly known as autumn crocus, is considered toxic to humans if ingested. Its toxicity primarily comes from the presence of alkaloids such as colchicine, which can interfere with cell division. Symptoms of autumn crocus poisoning can include gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), burning sensation in the mouth and throat, abdominal pain, kidney and liver impairment, and potentially life-threatening complications such as respiratory failure and cardiovascular collapse in severe cases. Ingestion of any part of the plant, especially the bulb, can lead to these symptoms and requires immediate medical attention.
Autumn crocus (Crocus longiflorus) is also toxic to pets, with cats and dogs both susceptible to its toxic effects. Similar to humans, the plant contains colchicine which can cause severe gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), drooling, abdominal pain, and potentially more serious signs such as seizures, organ failure, and respiratory distress. Consumption of any part of this plant, particularly the corm, can be dangerous and immediate veterinary care should be sought if a pet is suspected to have ingested autumn crocus.
Color of leaves
4 inches (10 cm)
3 inches (7.5 cm)
- General Benefits
- Aesthetic Appeal: Crocus longiflorus, commonly known as the Autumn Crocus, adds a splash of color to gardens and landscapes with its vibrant purple flowers.
- Early Blooming: It is one of the first flowers to bloom in late winter or early spring, providing an early sign of the changing season.
- Pollinator Attraction: The Autumn Crocus attracts bees and other pollinators, which are essential for the pollination of many plants and crops.
- Low Maintenance: Once established, Crocus longiflorus is relatively low maintenance, requiring minimal care to thrive.
- Drought Tolerance: It is fairly drought-tolerant, making it suitable for xeriscaping and reducing the need for frequent watering.
- Adaptability: The plant is adaptable to a variety of soil types as long as there is good drainage.
- Medical Properties
This plant is not used for medical purposes.
- Air-purifying Qualities
This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.
- Other Uses
- Crocus longiflorus, commonly known as autumn crocus, can be used in the garden for naturalizing, creating a carpet of color when planted in large numbers underneath deciduous trees or shrubs.
- Due to its vibrant early spring bloom, autumn crocus is utilized for seasonal container gardening, brightening patios and balconies before other plants have awakened from dormancy.
- The flowers of autumn crocus can be picked and used for dyeing textiles, providing a natural source of color.
- The corms of autumn crocus can be used in the areas of water conservation gardening, as they require less water after establishment, promoting xeriscaping.
- The autumn crocus is sometimes used as a companion plant to deter pests in the garden because of its chemical properties, even though it should be handled with caution due to its toxicity.
- The distinctive shape and color of autumn crocus make it a popular subject in botanical art and photography, inspiring artists with its beauty.
- Autumn crocus can be used in sensory gardens designed for educational purposes, helping people learn about plant life cycles due to its timely flowering turnover.
- In colder climates, autumn crocus corms can be stored over winter and used as a teaching tool to demonstrate storage organ functionalities for educational purposes.
- Some cultures use the dried stigmas of autumn crocus to create eco-friendly decorative items, such as bookmarks or paper embellishments, though care is needed due to their toxic nature.
- Autumn crocus is sometimes featured in literature and poetry as a symbol of rebirth and the changing seasons, inspiring writers and poets with its lifecycle.
- Feng Shui
The Crocus is not used in Feng Shui practice.
- Zodiac Sign Compitability
The Crocus is not used in astrology practice.
- Plant Symbolism
- Hope: Crocus flowers, including the Crocus longiflorus or commonly known as the autumn crocus, often symbolize hope due to their early spring bloom, signifying the end of winter and the arrival of warmer weather and new beginnings.
- Youthfulness: The fresh, vibrant blooms of the Crocus longiflorus are reminiscent of youth and vitality, symbolizing the rejuvenating energy of nature.
- Joy: The Crocus longiflorus, with its bright and cheerful flowers, often represents joy and gladness, bringing a smile to those who encounter its blooms after the long winter months.
- Cheerfulness: Their perky and colorful appearance makes them a symbol of cheerfulness, reminding people of the beauty of life and nature.
Autumn Crocus generally prefer even moisture during the growth and flowering period, so it's essential to water them regularly but modestly. Aim to water once a week, ensuring that you provide just enough to moisten the soil without causing waterlogged conditions; this could be approximately 1 gallon per square yard every week, depending on the weather conditions and soil type. Increase the frequency if there are extended periods of dry weather, as they will need more water to maintain their blooms. However, once the flowering is over and the foliage begins to die back, reduce watering significantly as the plant enters its dormant phase. Over-watering, especially during dormancy, can lead to bulb rot.
Autumn Crocus thrive best in full sun to partial shade. The ideal spot would be where the plant receives morning sunlight and is protected from the intense heat of the afternoon sun, especially in hotter regions. Adequate light is crucial during their growing season to ensure good flowering, so consider placing them in a bright area of the garden, or near a south or east-facing window if indoors.
Autumn Crocus can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but perform best when daytime temperatures are between 60°F and 70°F. They can survive temperatures as low as 15°F and as high as 85°F. However, prolonged exposure to temperatures outside this range could be harmful to the plant. The ideal temperature range allows for healthy growth and optimal flowering.
Autumn Crocus do not require regular pruning, but deadheading spent flowers can help in maintaining a clean appearance and can prevent the plant from spending energy on seed production. Pruning should be done carefully so as not to damage the foliage as this is needed for photosynthesis, which in turn replenishes the nutrient stores in the bulb for the next growing season. Foliage should only be removed when it has died back naturally, typically after flowering has ended.
The Autumn Crocus requires well-draining soil with a mixture of loam, sand, and compost, ideally with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. To create the best soil mix, combine two parts loam, one part coarse sand, and one part compost or well-rotted manure.
The Autumn Crocus typically does not need frequent repotting and can be left undisturbed for several years. Repotting should occur when the bulbs have become overcrowded, usually every 3-4 years, to sustain healthy growth.
- Humidity & Misting
The Autumn Crocus thrives in average room humidity levels but appreciates occasional misting. Providing a relative humidity around 40-60% is ideal for this plant.
- Suitable locations
Place in bright, indirect light with cool temperatures.
Plant in partial shade or full sun in well-drained soil.
- Life cycle
Crocus longiflorus, commonly known as the Saffron Crocus, begins its life cycle as a corm, a bulb-like storage organ that lies dormant underground during the hot and dry months. In the autumn, the corm sprouts, producing grass-like leaves and a flowering stalk; this is when the plant’s distinctive purple, mauve, or white flowers bloom, each with three stigmas that can be harvested as saffron. After flowering, the plant undergoes photosynthesis and stores energy in the corm through the late autumn and winter. In spring, the foliage dies back, signaling the end of the photosynthetic and growth period. During the summer, the corm lies dormant once again, resisting the dry Mediterranean climate where the plant typically thrives. Each year, the corm can reproduce by division, creating offsets that develop into new corms and perpetuate the cycle.
Crocus longiflorus, commonly known as the Long-flowered Crocus, is typically propagated through division of its corms. The ideal time for this process is in the late summer, after the foliage has died back, indicating that the plant has entered its dormant phase. To propagate by division, gently dig up the corms and separate the offsets from the parent corm. Replant the offsets immediately at a depth of around 3 to 4 inches (about 7.5 to 10 centimeters), ensuring that they have enough space to develop. This straightforward method helps to maintain the health and vitality of the Long-flowered Crocus by rejuvenating its growth and allowing an increase in numbers without the need for seed sowing or more complex propagation techniques.