Characteristics and cultivation of saffron (Crocus sativus)

The saffron is an indispensable food for any kitchen for the production of dried stigmas famous as a spice. In addition, as an ornamental it is also usable for our garden, given the colorful set of its leaves. If you are interested in knowing how saffron is grown, let’s see it right now!


The Crocus sativus and extraction of saffron has an ancient history . In 2,300 a. C. there were already references about it, and it was used in the kitchen, for medicinal remedies, rites and ceremonies, etc. The Greeks used it particularly as a perfume, where they spread it in theaters, patios and baths. An anecdote is that Rome was wrapped in saffron when Nero made his entrance.

Today it does not have so many applications, or at least related to the previous options. It is widely used in gastronomy and medicine . The main producer of this plant of the Iridaceae family (2,000 species distributed throughout the world and one of the most important in horticulture) is Iran , followed by other countries such as Spain, Morocco, Greece and India.

And now, after the historical introduction that we have made about the cultivation of saffron, we come to know its agricultural value.



The saffron is a plant that supports a wide range of temperatures , ranging from -15 ° C to the 40 ° C. Above all, the Manchego climate has the best conditions, where in summer it is very hot and in winter it is very cold, which is what Crocus sativus is used to.

On the other hand, soil conditions (structure, porosity, drainage, etc.) are much more important than climatic conditions. Let’s see it.


Saffron is a bulbous plant and therefore needs well-drained soils (which do not rot the bulb). For this reason we must avoid heavy soils or that accumulate excess moisture. The deep limestone soils are perfect for cultivation, with a medium amount of organic matter. Remember that saffron depletes the soil and it is necessary to take advantage of the mineral sources produced by the compost first .

In fact, once saffron has been collected from a plot, it is usually left to rest without cultivating Crocus sativus again (but other plants from different families) for around 10 years.

Usually it prepares the ground prior to planting plowing between 30 and 40 cm . With this we will achieve an increase in the porosity of the soil, and the ideal mixture of compost.

This work is usually done several months before planting, which runs from June to September, leaving 10 cm of separation between the bulbs, burying them at a depth of between 10 and 15 cm.


The fertilizer is usually applied in the work of turning the earth , and is usually done between 3 months and 1 month before, depending on the state of the soil. Well decomposed organic matter, such as manure or compost, is applied and distributed evenly within the frame where we want to plant the saffron. In 1 square meter you can add between 1 kg and 1.5 kg of organic matter, although it will depend on the quality of the product when adding more or less.

Saffron is a plant used to hot climates where there is no excess water (Greece, Spain, Morocco, Iran, etc.). Large producers tend to irrigate infrequently but in large quantities. On the other hand, it has been shown that localized irrigation increases stigma yield. In short, saffron does not need large amounts of water


Saffron is a small plant and is often seen surrounded by other plants and weeds. You can do a manual weeding or cleaning if your crop is small (and is more focused on ornamental). It is a task to be done since for large producers to say that the growth of weeds can mean a loss of up to 20% of the saffron production.


Saffron cultivation does not last more than 3 years. There have been cases where a 4th year continues to be produced, but it is not entirely advisable, as the performance drops too low.

The bulbs are collected , the impregnated soil is cleaned and removed and those bulbs that are larger and that visually have higher quality are preserved. They are usually stored at temperatures of 5 to 10 ºC extended (so that the entire surface is aerated) and they are not piled up.


Tell you as an anecdote that due to its complicated collection process (it takes between 100,000 and 250,000 flowers to collect 1 kg of saffron, depending on the thickness of the stigma) the economic values ​​that are achieved are brutal. That kg of saffron stigmas that we have mentioned before costs around 3,000 euros .


Only 0.8% of saffron production in Spain comes from… Spain! The saffron from La Mancha is considered pure gold for its good features and its price is around € 3,000 per kg. However, of the actual production of 1,500 kg (in 2010), about 190,000 kg were exported under the Spanish brand.

The “trick” was to buy from other countries such as Iran, Greece, Morocco and India and pack it with a Spanish label, which, however, the packer has never been obliged to specify its origin. It is not a crime but it is misleading and fraudulent.

The kilogram of saffron in other countries reaches much lower values, between 1,000 and 1,500 euros, and yet it is sold as a Spanish product for 3,000 euros.

The business is profitable. Careful with that.

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