What Are Crocus Offsets: How To Dig Up Crocus Bulbs For Propagation

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By Deborah Aldridge, Horticulturist and Owner of The Consummate Gardener blog

Crocuses are some of the first flowers to poke their heads through the soil in the early spring, sometimes popping up even through snow. Propagating crocus bulbs from division is a simple and easy method of multiplying these enchanting flowers.

Information About Crocus Bulbs

Crocus flowers appear from March to April in a wide range of colors, from white to yellow and shades of purple, with solid and striped varieties. The bulbs grow best in well-drained, sandy loam but tolerate many soil types. They prefer a sunny location but will tolerate partial shade. The flowers will not open in full shade.

Tips for Propagating Crocus Bulbs

Crocus bulbs must be dug up for division when they have gone dormant after the first frost in the fall. When you dig up crocus bulbs for propagation, be sure to dig far enough out so that you do not cut into the bulbs, and deep enough so that you can gently lift them out of the ground.

Once lifted, you can gently separate the offsets for replanting elsewhere. So what are crocus offsets? Crocus offsets are new bulbs that form around the original bulb. The mother bulb creates offsets from buds within the base. Crocus bulbs also develop tiny seed bulbs, called bulbils, which develop underground.

How to Propagate Crocus Flowers from Bulb Divisions

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Crocus bulbs will produce smaller flowers if they are crowded and should be divided every five years. The following steps will help with propagating crocus bulbs after digging and separating them:

  1. Sort the bulbs by size and color to make your garden design easier. Keep in mind that small offshoot bulbils may take a year or more to produce flowers.
  2. Choose a location with plenty of sun. Turn the soil in the new site to a depth of 4 inches and dig holes 3 to 4 inches apart.
  3. Place bone meal or bulb fertilizer in the bottom of each hole.
  4. Place the offset or bulbils in the hole tip side up and 2 to 3 inches deep. Smaller bulbils should be planted at the shallower depth.
  5. Water the planting area thoroughly and cover with 3 inches of organic mulch.

Protecting Your Crocus Bulbs from Pests

Newly-planted crocus bulbs are a treat for squirrelschipmunks and other marauding pests. You can protect your bulbs by placing wire mesh over the area before laying your mulch to prevent animals from being able to dig up the bulbs.

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