Color Tips

A garden’s colors return in the most delicate and subtlest of ways when in the form of a crocus — a favorite harbinger of spring and one of Michigan’s earliest-blooming flowers.

FleurDetroit in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham sells a wide variety of crocus. The landscape-design company/garden shop owners say crocus look great along the edge of a garden bed or a walkway. “Our favorite colors are bold purple and clean, crisp white,” says co-owner Phillip Morici. “Masses of one color bring impressive impact come spring.” Old House Gardens, a mail-order bulb-seller in Ann Arbor, offers a choice selection of heirloom crocus. Owner Scott Kunst says the “traditional” variety of crocus may grow best here in southeast Michigan because it can handle colder winter temperatures. The traditional crocus that most of us know and love — sometimes called Dutch crocus — are larger and slightly later-blooming than others, and have brightened landscapes since at least the 1500s.

Kunst offers the following insights for planting crocus:

  • This fall, plant crocus as soon as the soil cools, giving them as long as possible to establish roots before the soil freezes completely.
  • Plant in full sun to very light shade. Crocus often do well in the dappled shade of deciduous trees and shrubs, or around the base of large perennials such as peonies, because they can complete most of their life cycle before these plants leaf out fully and limit their sun. Crocus prefer well-drained soil, but they adapt well in most garden soils.
  • Do NOT apply a thick mulch of shredded bark, etc. Crocus are small and may not be able to push their way up through a heavy mulch.
  • After it blooms, allow the foliage to yellow completely (to feed the bulbs for future bloom) before removing. Crocus foliage matures and withers away so early in the spring, it’s virtually never an eyesore.

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