February brings the spring crocus. These ephemeral beauties are actually perennials. After blooming in February and March, they go dormant in the summer and reappear next spring. Crocus are grown from corms, which are relatively small and cheap compared to other spring blooming bulbs.
The plants do best in full sun and well-drained soil. They are great for naturalizing in a lawn, planted in drifts, or in alpine or rock gardens, or in containers. You can force them to bloom indoors in low growing containers, much like a flower arrangement.
The most commonly planted are hybrids of the large flowered Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus), the golden or snow crocus (C. chrysanthus), and tommies (C. tommasinianus). These work well for large drifts outside. For more singular plantings, such as an alpine or rock garden or containers, look into the more unusual species. There are many more species and cultivars than what is available in local garden centers so check out these bulb companies.
Purchase corms in the fall. All types of animals will either eat the corms or move them around so plant deeper than you would for other bulbs. I have read from 3 to 6 inches but it depends on the actual size of the corm. Plant many to ensure that a good number will survive and bloom. The tommies are the most squirrel-resistant because they contain alkaloids that the other crocus plants do not. Also, if you are trying to establish drifts in the lawn, it helps to cut the lawn as late as possible to ensure the crocus leaves can produce food for the next season.
The former owner of my house planted these purple crocus plants more than 20 years ago. Every March, they bloom in the front lawn and I have never fertilized or divided them. The little blossoms don’t have much of a stem so I put them in tiny vases on the kitchen table. The flowers last only a day or two but their declaration that spring is coming is loud and clear.