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How to grow saffron

How to grow saffron

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world – but it's easy to grow at home. We show you how.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
At its best
At its best

Plant is not at its best in January

Plant is not at its best in February

Plant is not at its best in March

Plant is not at its best in April

Plant is not at its best in May

Plant is not at its best in June

Plant is not at its best in July

Plant is not at its best in August

Plant is not at its best in September

Plant is at its best in October

Plant is at its best in November

Plant is not at its best in December

To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do not To do in October

Do not To do in November

Do not To do in December

Saffron is a spice used mainly as a seasoning in dishes like curries, risottos and fish dishes, but is also used as a food colouring agent. It’s the world’s most expensive spice by weight, owing to the number of plants needed to harvest a modest amount. Saffron is thought to be native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia, but is grown widely across Iran, as well as parts of Spain, France, Italy and India.

Saffron strands are the stigmas of the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus. While they’re easy to grow you’ll need to buy a lot of saffron bulbs – around 150 flowers will produce one gram of saffron. Saffron crocuses flower in autumn.

How to grow saffron

Saffron crocus bulbs are widely available from mail-order bulb and seed companies. Plant them in summer in moist but well-drained soil and water well. To harvest the saffron strands, simply remove using tweezers, and dry them before using them to add delicate colour and flavour to a range of dishes.

Advice on buying Crocus sativus bulbs

  • Buy as many saffron crocus bulbs as you can afford or have space for, as you’ll need a lot of crocus flowers to produce a teaspoon of saffron strands
  • Always check bulbs for signs of damage or disease before planting

Where to buy saffron bulbs

More on growing crocus:


You Will Need

  • Saffron crocus bulbs (Crocus sativus)
  • Trowel
  • Tweezers

Total time:

Step 1

Plant the saffron crocus bulbs in late summer, in pots or borders, in a warm, sunny spot. Space them 15cm apart, at a depth of about 10cm, then firm down the soil and water in well.

Planting saffron crocus bulbs
Planting saffron crocus bulbs

Step 2

When the crocuses flower in autumn, harvest the saffron strands by removing the long, bright orange-red stigmas from the centre of the flowers using tweezers. Each flower produces just three stigmas, so harvest them carefully.

Harvesting the saffron strands
Harvesting the saffron strands

Step 3

Lay out the harvested stigmas on a paper towel to dry out thoroughly for a few days in a warm, dry place, then store in an air-tight container. Use sparingly in a wide range of dishes, both savoury and sweet, where they will add colour and flavour.

Drying the saffron strands
Drying the saffron strands