How to grow saffron – expert tips for growing and harvesting saffron

Bring the colorful, sought-after spice to your own garden and kitchen with our step by step guide on how to grow saffron

how to grow saffron collection of purple saffron flowers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wondering how to grow saffron? Our expert guide to growing and harvesting saffron will help you cultivate this fragrant spice with ease.

A luxurious, vivid spice that has been around for centuries, saffron comes from a flower called crocus sativus, also known as the ‘saffron crocus’. A beautiful, purple flower with bright red threads (stigmas), these threads are what make the saffron spice. Saffron can only be harvested by hand over a short period of time in the fall season, with each flower only producing a very small amount of the spice, which explains why saffron is one of the most desired and expensive spices in the world.

Here we explore how to grow saffron at home and address some of the most common questions asked about this unique and valuable spice.  

bowl of bright red dried saffron threads

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to grow saffron

Below we take you through our simple step-by-step guide on how to grow saffron.

  • To grow saffron at home, you will need to buy some crocus sativus (saffron crocus) corms or bulbs, the more you have, the more saffron you will be able to harvest. 
  • Plant the bulbs in late summer. They can be planted in grass in well-drained soil, as well as in pots or in a cool greenhouse. If planted in grass, the plants are great for edging a path or border, or work well in clusters in a flower-bed or rockery.
  • Plant the bulbs in small clumps, around 5cm deep and 5-10cm apart. 
  • Once planted, ensure the soil gets plenty of sunshine and does not become waterlogged. 
  • The flowers will bloom in fall before the leaves. The bright red threads must be picked and dried quickly as the flowers unfortunately wilt after just one day. Delicately remove the threads using tweezers, each flower produces only three stigmas.
  • Leave the threads on a paper-towel indoors for a few days until they are fully dried out, then store in an air-tight container in a warm, dry place. You can then crush the stems to make a powder and add the saffron to many a recipe, both sweet and savory, with the spice adding a sweet, earthy taste.
  • After the plants have flowered, leave the plant to die naturally and prune when it turns yellow.  

saffron threads being picked from the purple saffron flower, bowl of saffron threads

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is saffron easy to grow? 

If you have the right planting conditions saffron is easy to grow. Once you have planted the bulbs the plants need little attention, you just need to remember to pick the precious threads as soon as the flowers bloom.

Where does saffron grow best? 

Saffron grows best in an area of well drained soil that gets plenty of direct sunlight - make sure the soil does not become waterlogged as this will ruin the plant growth.

purple saffron flower in bloom, growing in soil

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How fast does saffron grow? 

Your bulbs need to be planted towards the end of the summer season and the threads harvested in autumn. The flowers can bloom as little as four weeks after planting but generally it will be between six to ten weeks.

How much saffron do you get from one plant? 

The reason why saffron is so expensive and desirable is each flower only produces a tiny amount of the spice. Around fifty flowers will produce one teaspoon of the spice so the more flowers the more spice you can harvest! The good news is a small amount of saffron can go a long way, the spice has a strong taste so you only need to add a pinch to your cooking to taste the flavor.

Zara Stacey
Zara Stacey

Zara joined Homes & Gardens in February 2022 as a Content Editor. After studying English Literature at University, she worked as an Ecommerce Website Editor, Content Writer and Buying Intern at multiple independent businesses within the luxury retail and lifestyle sectors. Her role at Homes & Gardens unites her love, experience and passion for the world of design and desire to create inspiring written content. She enjoys nothing more than discovering new trends, brands and products, whether that be in fashion, interior design or lifestyle.