We depend on donations from users of our database of over 8000 edible and useful plants to keep making it available free of charge and to further extend and improve it. In recent months donations are down, and we are spending more than we receive. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Crocus sativus - L.

Common Name Saffron
Family Iridaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards The plant is poisonous[21]. The plant is perfectly safe in normal usage but 5 - 10 grams of saffron has been known to cause death[65].
Habitats Not known in a truly wild location[90].
Range S. Europe - Greece to W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Crocus sativus Saffron

Crocus sativus Saffron


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Crocus sativus is a CORM growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf from October to May, in flower in October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, butterflies.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



 Lawn; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Root
Edible Uses: Colouring  Condiment  Tea

The flower styles are commonly used as a flavouring and yellow colouring for various foods such as bread, soups, sauces, rice and puddings[2, 4, 7, 14, 21, 27, 34, 183]. They are an essential ingredient of many traditional dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse, risotto milanese and various other Italian dishes[244]. The styles are extremely rich in riboflavin[137]. Water soluble[171]. Yields per plant are extremely low, about 4000 stigmas yield 25g of saffron[89]. Saffron is the world's most expensive spice, it takes 150,000 flowers and 400 hours work to produce 1 kilo of dried saffron[238]. About 25 kilos of styles can be harvested from a hectare of the plant[4]. Fortunately, only very small quantities of the herb are required to impart their colour and flavour to dishes[244]. Because of the cost, saffron is frequently adulterated with cheaper substitutes such as marigold flowers and safflower[244]. The flower styles are used as a tea substitute[183]. Root - cooked[183]. The corms are toxic to young animals[218] so this report of edibility should be treated with some caution[K].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Anodyne  Antispasmodic  Aphrodisiac  Appetizer  Carminative  Diaphoretic  Emmenagogue  
Expectorant  Narcotic  Sedative  Stimulant

Saffron is a famous medicinal herb with a long history of effective use, though it is little used at present because cheaper and more effective herbs are available[4, 7, 254]. The flower styles and stigmas are the parts used, but since these are very small and fiddly to harvest they are very expensive and consequently often adulterated by lesser products[7]. The styles and stigmas are anodyne, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, appetizer, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative and stimulant[4, 7, 21, 174, 176, 218]. They are used as a diaphoretic for children, to treat chronic haemorrhages in the uterus of adults, to induce menstruation, treat period pains and calm indigestion and colic[4, 254]. A dental analgesic is obtained from the stigmas[7]. The styles are harvested in the autumn when the plant is in flower and are dried for later use[4], they do not store well and should be used within 12 months[238]. This remedy should be used with caution[21], large doses can be narcotic[240] and quantities of 10g or more can cause an abortion[218].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

Now available: PLANTS FOR YOUR FOOD FOREST: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens.

An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More


Other Uses


The yellow dye obtained from the stigmas has been used for many centuries to colour cloth[4, 7, 14, 21]. It is the favoured colouring for the cloth of Indian swamis who have renounced the material world. A blue or green dye is obtained from the petals[168].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a well-drained sandy or loamy soil that is free from clay[137]. Prefers a sunny position[238]. Grows well on calcareous soils[27] and on hot sheltered stony banks[42]. Plants are very frost hardy[137]. They also thrive in areas with poor summers, though they usually fail to flower in such conditions[238]. Plants produce less saffron when grown on rich soils[137]. They do not flower very freely in Britain[90]. Saffron has been cultivated for over 4,000 years for the edible dye obtained from the flower stigmas[1]. It was at one time commercially grown in Britain and the town Saffron Walden obtained its name because of this. There is at least one named form. 'Cashmirianus' comes from Kashmir and has large high quality corms. It yields about 27 kilos of rich orange stigmas per hectare[183]. When inhaled near to, the flowers have a delicate perfume[245]. Unlike most members of this genus, the flowers do not close of a night time or in dull weather[245]. The flowers are only produced after hot, dry summers[245]. Plants tend to move considerably from their original planting place because of their means of vegetative reproduction, it is therefore wise not to grow different species in close proximity[1]. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer[245]. Plants take 4 - 5 years to come into flowering from seed. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons [1-2]. The root pattern is a corm swelling at the stem base [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


Seed - according to some reports this species is a sterile triploid and so does not produce fertile seed[90, 238]. However, if seed is obtained then it is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[1]. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame[1]. Germination can take 1 - 6 months at 18°c[164]. Unless the seed has been sown too thickly, do not transplant the seedlings in their first year of growth, but give them regular liquid feeds to make sure they do not become deficient. Divide the small bulbs once the plants have died down, planting 2 - 3 bulbs per 8cm pot. Grow them on for another 2 years in a greenhouse or frame and plant them out into their permanent positions when dormant in late summer[K]. It takes 3 years for plants to flower from seed[244]. Division of the clumps in late summer after the plant has died down[1, 4, 14]. The bulbs can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Colchicum autumnaleAutumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron,Bulb0.2 6-9 MLMHSNM031
Crocus cancellatus Corm0.1 4-8  LMNM10 
Crocus kotschyanus Corm0.3 4-8  LMNDM10 
Crocus nudiflorus Corm0.2 4-8  LMSNDM231
Crocus serotinus Corm0.1 5-9  LMSNDM201

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

ryan meissel   Thu Nov 8 2007

what are the different types, the future uses, growing conditions. of saffron

brian hayes   Sun Dec 31 2006

I would like to grow Saffron - on a verly small scale. Where can I obtain seed or a corn?

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Tue Jan 2 2007

This plant is quite widely available in Britain, with about 20 Nurseries offering it. For details of these visit The Plant Finder at http://www.rhs.org.uk/RHSPlantFinder/plantfinder.asp.

J Crocker   Fri Jan 5 2007

Would this plant grow in the tropics at altitude? In particular the Venezuelan Andes which have two seasons, hot(ish) and dry and hot(ish) and wet? Many European vegetables and flowers, roses and alstroemeria in particular are very successfully grown there; and labour is cheap.

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Sun Jan 21 2007

To be honest, I have no idea if this plant would succeed in a mountainous area in the Tropics. You mention that European roses grow there very successfully - are any of the vegetables you mentioned perennials, or are they all annuals? My feeling is that, if various other European perennial plants can succeed there, then there is no reason why Crocus sativus shouldn't also. If I was to try it, I would plant it a month or so before the wet season began, hoping it would grow during the wet season (as it does in southern Europe) and then go dormant in the dry season. It should flower towards the end of the dry season.

   Thu Mar 8 2007

what is it name in arabic?

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Sat Apr 14 2007

The Arabic name for this plant is Kurkum, the Iranian name is Zaffran.

Jamie Frankland   Thu Mar 22 2007

can you grow the crocus sativus from bulbs rather than seeds. If so how long will they take to flower

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Tue Apr 24 2007

Some reports say that true Crocus sativus does not produce fertile seed because it is a sterile triploid. However, if you do get hold of seed that you feel is genuine Crocus sativus then it usually takes a minimum of 3 years to produce a flowering plant.

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Sun Jan 21 2007

To be honest, I have no idea if this plant would succeed in such a situation. You mention that European roses grow there very successfully - are any of the vegetables you mentioned perennials, or are they all annuals? My feeling is that, if various other European perennial plants can succeed there, then there is no reason why Crocus sativus shouldn't also. If I was to try it, I would plant it a month or so before the wet season began, hoping it would grow during the wet season (as it does in southern Europe) and then go dormant in the dry season. It should flower towards the end of the dry season.

kaday san   Sun Jun 24 2007

How many flower grows out of one bulb?? How much stigmas are produced from one flower??

Hkumar   Tue Dec 25 2007

How does saffron do in high altitude monsoon climates (plateaus of southern I ndia)?

ANDREW LEVER   Fri Jan 30 2009

recent studies have suggested that saffron is affective at relieving stress induced depression or mild to modern depression. is it safe to take saffron tables on a day to day basis or eat saffron everyday in your food?

john smith   Thu Mar 12 2009

the saffron is used in lots of different recipies as well

M. J. HUMBAL   Thu Dec 3 2009

Please send me a photograph of Crocus Sativus Seeds.(Saffron Seeds)

   Mar 15 2013 12:00AM

I grow saffron crocus in the UK very successfully in troughs which stand on bricks for effective drainage.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Crocus sativus  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.