How to Grow Saffron Indoors
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice – and is quite literally worth its weight in gold.
Sprouts in 4-10 weeks. Harvest from Month 3+ on.
Equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day].
Beginner friendly. You’ll sprout, thin, and harvest.
Can You Grow Saffron at Home? Best Saffron Crocus varieties to grow inside.
Yes, you can grow saffron at home. There’s only one saffron variety – the saffron crocus!
|Why We Like Them||Best known for producing the spice saffron from the filaments that grow inside the flower.|
Growing Saffron: Best Setup for Saffron Plants
If you want to start growing saffron, you’ll need:
Ceramic Self Watering Planter (preferred) or pot that is at least 6″ / 1 quart.
Standard Potting Mix
Balanced Blend. This should be equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10).
A strong grow light that can give the equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day].
Jump to: Our product recommendations
Preparing your Planter & Watering Schedule for Saffron
Saffron Crocus plants don’t do well in moist soil conditions. The roots are not accustomed to being too wet and will rot in boggy conditions. On the other hand, if the soil dries out completely the roots will die back and the plant won’t recover. This can catch you off guard because the plant’s not very expressive (its leaves don’t wilt) so it will look fine right up until it dies.
A Ceramic Self Watering Planter filled with a free-draining potting mix self-regulates to keep the soil on the drier side, but with a little consistent moisture (and means no watering guesswork for you). Careful of wick-based self-watering planters with Saffron Crocus – as they tend to be too wet.
To set one up:
- Fill up the planter with dry soil from the bag, gently tamping down the top.
- Dump the soil into a large mixing bowl and add water until the soil is moist, but not sopping wet (about ½ Cup)
- Mix in 1 tablespoon of the Balanced Blend Plant Food.
If you are using a regular pot instead, it should be a little bit bigger (at least 6″ / 1 quart and will need drainage holes to prevent it from being over watered. Let the top of the soil dry out between watering.
Starting your Saffron Crocus: Seed vs Propagate vs Nursery Plant
Saffron Crocus is easy to start from a bulb. If you are feeling impatient – they’re also easy to propagate by dividing an established clump or buying a live plant.
Growing Saffron Crocus: How to Plant Saffron Crocus Bulbs
Plant 1 site in a 6″ / 1-quart container. In larger containers, space sites 3″ apart. For each site plant 1 bulb 3 inches deep. Keep the soil warm ( 70-80°F, ideally 75°F). Sprouts typically appear in 7 weeks but can be as quick as 4 weeks or as long as 10 weeks depending on your conditions.
Propagating established bunches: How to divide Saffron Crocus
Saffron Crocus replicates underground – so if you’ve already got an established plant you love (or a friend does!) you can easily “clone” it by dividing the bunch. First, give it a good watering to loosen up the roots. Then pull the entire cluster out and gently tease the roots apart. That’s it!
How to Transplant Saffron Crocus
Live starter plants give you a big jump start on your first harvest. When you’re in a garden center – pick the bushiest plant available (tall and lanky ones will be weak growers) and give it a good inspection for pests. Leaves should be dark green without holes, spots, or curled edges. A best practice is to actually “quarantine” your plant for about a week after bringing it home to make sure it’s free and clear of ride-on pests.
Ensuring its pest and disease-free it’s time to transplant your seedling into its final home.
- Remove some soil from its final planter – leaving enough space for the bottom of the seedling to be just higher than the soil surface.
- Hold on to the base of the stem with one hand, and turn the pot over while gently pulling the seedling. Giving the pot a few squeezes can help dislodge it.
- Place in its final container and fill around it with soil so that it’s tight, but not compacted.
Where to grow your Saffron plants/Best Place to Grow Saffron:
Like all edible plants, Saffron Crocus plants need lots of light to grow and develop good flavor. Sunlight is excellent for plant growth (and free!) and you might be lucky enough to have a spot that’s got the 5+ hours of direct sun they need. Even with a bright window, it’s unlikely that you’ll have enough natural light in the winter so we recommend a grow light for anyone who wants a constant supply of flavorful produce. For an introduction to grow lights, head over to our post on grow lights for indoor gardeners. We’ve also got a buying guide for screw in types, but to keep things simple in this guide, we’ll just provide directions for the 24W Screw in Bulb by Sansi, which we think is a good middle-of-the-road option.
How bright should your grow light be?
Saffron Crocus plants need the equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sunlight [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day] to grow their best. In order to provide an equivalent amount with a grow light, it needs to be pretty bright! The 24W Sansi bulb should be placed 6 inches away from the top of the plant. This will give your PPFD (the standard measure of brightness) of 500 μmol/m²/s.
How many hours per day do your Saffron plants need under a grow light?
Saffron Crocus plants are known as “short-day,” meaning they’ll develop faster if they sense over 12 hours of darkness. We want them to progress into flowering as soon as possible, so we recommend setting up a timer to leave it on for only 10 hours per day.
Saffron Growing Temperature: Saffron Crocus Plants Grow Faster in Warmer Temps
Saffron Crocus plants are called “warm-weather crops” and will speed up their metabolism when temperatures are warmer. On the other hand, if things get too hot they’ll wilt and become prone to disease. Ideal temperatures are around 70°F but anything between 50 and 100°F grows well.
Week 4-10: Check for Sprouts
You could see seedlings in as little as 4 weeks (though 7 weeks is more typical). If it’s been 10 weeks and you still don’t have any sprouts, it’s likely that your setup is too cold.
Week 10: Check Your Seedlings
There’s no need to thin Saffron Crocus, but you should check on your seedlings’ progress to make sure you’ve got enough light. They should be about 1 inch tall by the end of Week 10. If they aren’t you likely need a bit more light.
Month 3+: How to Harvest Saffron Crocus at Home
To harvest the saffron at home, take a pair of tweezers and remove the fuzzy red parts from the flower.
Year 5+: End of Life
Saffron will keep growing and replicating for a long time! Every 3-4 years you should dig up the bunch and separate it so it can continue to have room to grow.
Shop This Blog so You can Start Growing Saffron
The right supplies can take the guesswork out of caring for your plants – and turn care from a daily to weekly routine. Through our grow tests, we’ve found these products to produce the best indoor Saffron (and also have simple maintenance). Plants are adaptable and can grow in many different conditions, so they are by no means necessary if you already have other supplies.
Best Containers for Saffron: Ceramic Self Watering Planters
Plants thrive on consistent moisture but can suffer if they’re waterlogged. A semi-porous ceramic self regulates ideal conditions. Our favorite is the COSWIP planter. Runner up is XS Self Watering Planter by Wet Pot.
Best Soil for Saffron: Standard Potting Mix
Saffron likes a rich and moist root zone – so you are best off with a standard potting mix – we like this Organic Mix by Espoma.
Best Nutrients for Saffron Crocus: Balanced Blend
Saffron Crocus likes nutrients that are equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10). For a Balanced Blend we recommend: Dr Earth All Purpose
Best Light for Saffron: DIY or Soltech
There is a very small chance that you have the bright windows needed to grow these without a grow light. If you are looking for a higher-end option – we love the Aspect Light by Soltech. For a more affordable option, a DIY setup using a 24W Screw-in Bulb by Sansi with a Clamp Light and Mechanical Timer works well too. Check out our complete guide on a DIY setup for less than $40 or our buying guide for screw in bulbs.