Crocus chrysanthus, Snow Crocus

Crocus chrysanthus Gipsy Girl with Blue Pearl behind
Crocus chrysanthus Gipsy Girl with Blue Pearl behind

Crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus) are a welcome sight in the early spring garden. Living up to their name, they rise up at the edge of the melting snow, bringing lively spring colours when they are most appreciated. Their little flowers would get lost in the summer garden, but they make a big splash in the early spring, when the leftover fall leaves are still on the ground, and most perennials are just dried stems. These bulbs have been very hardy in zone 3, even through the coldest winter.

Crocus chrysanthus Gipsy Girl (snow crocus) striped buds
Crocus chrysanthus Gipsy Girl (snow crocus) striped buds

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’ is a sunny yellow, with maroon stripes underneath, for a little flair. The buds are beautiful, with the stripes showing up well. These showy blooms were the first in my garden this year, so if you are looking for a plant to extend your garden season, these are a great choice.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Gipsy Girl' (snow crocus) open
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’ (snow crocus) open

When the Gipsy Girl flowers open their petals, they form sunny yellow cups. A group of these are very eye-catching in the garden, despite only rising a few cm (inches) above the ground.

Crocus chrysanthus Fuscotinctus (snow crocus) striped buds
Crocus chrysanthus Fuscotinctus (snow crocus) striped buds

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ is another yellow snow crocus with brownish purple stripes. The stripes are more slender and not quite as pronounced as Gipsy Girl.
Because the stripes are on the outside of the petals, they are most visible in the bud stage, or when closed up in the evening.

Crocus chrysanthus Fuscotinctus (snow crocus) blooms
Crocus chrysanthus Fuscotinctus (snow crocus) blooms

When they open, the inside of the ‘Fuscotinctus’ flower has sunny yellow petals, and a darker ring in the middle. These petite plants make a bright grouping.

Crocus chrysanthus Cream Beauty (snow crocus) buds
Crocus chrysanthus Cream Beauty (snow crocus) buds

The flowers of Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ are a softer, light yellow butter colour. You couldn’t get a more cheery colour for spring.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' (snow crocus) yellow petals
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ (snow crocus) yellow petals

Here, the ‘Cream Beauty’ flowers are just flaring out their buds.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' (snow crocus) petals
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ (snow crocus) petals

The ‘Cream Beauty’ flowers were the third ones to open their petals. All of the snow crocus colours coordinate beautifully together, and are overlapping their bloom time.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' (snow crocus) opening
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ (snow crocus) opening

I love the these dainty Cream Beauty flowers, as well as the slender green leaves, with the typical silver crocus stripe down the middle of each leaf.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' (snow crocus) open
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ (snow crocus) open

The above photo of Cream Beauty flowers show the extra sunny colour of the inside petals, and the paler colour of the outside of the petals.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' (snow crocus) April
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ (snow crocus) April

These Cream Beauty flowers look like they were carved by a chef from butter. The outer petals flare slightly, and the inner ones are ready to open.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl' (snow crocus) blue bud
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ (snow crocus) blue bud

The Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ buds are a pale lavender blue, like the one in the centre of the picture above. The flowers are very pale, and appear white on top in the bright light. These were the second flowers to open up, right after the Gipsy Girl crocus.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl' (snow crocus) sunlit
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ (snow crocus) sunlit

I’m enchanted by how the sun shines right through the petals of these flowers, showing the shadows of the anthers and stigma within. It gives then an ethereal appearance.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl' (snow crocus) groups
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ (snow crocus) groups

This photo show the pretty flower clusters, with the petals halfway open, and still pointing up.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl' (snow crocus) flowers
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ (snow crocus) flowers

Here is another view of a Blue Pearl group, with diminutive flowers facing up to the sun.

Crocus chrysanthus Snow Bunting (snow crocus) opening
Crocus chrysanthus Snow Bunting (snow crocus) opening

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’ is a pure white colour. These buds are just starting to open. Nine of these were included free with an order I placed, and I planted them on their own. However, they need more bulb companions, since they are so small. Still, they are pretty and spring like.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Snow Bunting' (snow crocus) open
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’ (snow crocus) open

Here is the Snow Bunting group, with the elfin petals opening for the sun.

The small bulbs look great in large groups, since they need the massing effect to be visible from a distance. I have from 9 to 60 of each type of snow crocus, and the larger groups really show up best. However, even a few bulbs placed up close, where they can be admired, give an instant spring lift. They are about 8 cm (3 in) tall when in bloom, so it’s a good thing they flower before the taller perennials are up.

Crocus chrysanthus Fuscotinctus (snow crocus) opening
Crocus chrysanthus Fuscotinctus (snow crocus) opening

The petals of the crocus flowers fold up at night, and when it is cloudy, and then open up to greet the sun. I have them planted in an area that doesn’t get too shady until the trees leaf out next month, so the bulbs are able to open for most of the day. They are planted under a lilac, and in between hardy Rozanne and Johnson’s Blue geraniums, which haven’t come up yet. Right now in April, the crocus have all the space to themselves. As they die back, the perennial geraniums will grow up to cover the decaying bulb foliage, and the lilac will leaf out above.

The snow crocus get the garden off to a quick start, when most other spring bulbs are just starting to peek up, and most perennials are playing it safe under ground. They shrug off the cool air, melting snow, and old leaves, in a hurry to brighten the newly exposed garden. I really appreciate them in a short season gardening zone, since they lengthen the bloom time, when you just can’t wait any longer for the gardening season to begin. Even if their extra early flowers get covered in snow, they are still worth it, for the brief glimpse of soft petals and spring joy. I have a number of the small crocus planted in my lawn, too.

You can see these crocus with more open petals in this followup post.

Crocus chrysanthus Blue Pearl in snow
Crocus chrysanthus Blue Pearl in snow

16 thoughts on “Crocus chrysanthus, Snow Crocus”

  1. Lovely post Northern, they are such a delighful flower. I like the idea of having them under a lilac, I would like to plant more next fall since I enjoy them so much in the spring, and it would be a good location. Do you find that yours come up in order of colour? Mine seem to (purple, white, yellow). You have such a unique assortment, the Cream Beauty really do look like butter curls. Do you water yours? I generally don’t but it’s been quite hot here lately and I wonder if they’d appreciate a drink.

    1. Rebecca, the crocus came up in mixed order. I really enjoy these flowers too, and am making plans for planting more next fall. I did give mine a watering last week, but it snowed two days ago, so that’s taken care of for now. It is very dry around here, and the sloughs and wetlands are low or empty.

      The Garden Ms. S, their petals close up if it’s too shady, so it helps to have them in a sunny or part sun location. They work well under deciduous trees, since they bloom so early, before the tree leaves start casting shadows. A few Crocus vernus are just showing a bud tip now, but the recent snow put them in suspended animation.

  2. What a sweet collection of crocuses to get things started. I think the Cream Beauty is particularly adorable. :-) Do the crocus require the sunniest location in the garden or will they bloom in some of the spots that get less direct light?

    1. Martha, the Cream Beauty are well named. Most of my bulbs have stopped growing over the last few days, since we have had cold weather and snow. A few warm days later this week should encourage the rest of the bulbs to flower.

  3. The crocuses are wonderful! I love the way you’ve planted them in drifts. Did you do anything special to keep the squirrels from stealing the bulbs right after planting?

    1. Linda, I’m fortunate to not have problems with squirrels, yet. There are a few around, but they mostly seem to collect the conifer cones, etc. I always see the piles of spruce cone scales under the trees. I planted almost 400 crocus bulbs last fall, and they all seem to have come up. The large, Dutch crocus will be next to bloom.

  4. I’ve only recently started planting crocus, so it’s great to get more of an education on the snow crocuses here. I already have ‘Gipsy Girl’ and “Cream Beauty’ – and I find that they tend to bloom in that order, at least for the last two years. ‘Cream Beauty’ has the added advantage of being slightly fragrant (in a colder climate, you may have to take them inside to get that, or try hovering over them on a late sunny morning).

    Thanks for my introduction to the ‘Blue Pearl’ and Fuscotinctus crocuses. Even in my warmer climate, crocuses extend the flower season considerably.

    1. Pomona, I will have to get closer to the Cream Beauty to catch their scent, since I haven’t noticed it yet. The snow crocus are even more fully open now, and putting on a good show. The first few Crocus vernus are showing their petals, and with the warm weather predicted for the next while, they should make a good display soon. I’m pleased with the overlap in bloom time with both typed of crocus.

      Easygardener, the white Snow Bunting all came up here, and the Blue Pearl are very close to white once they’re out. I have to go out everyday and make the the rounds, looking at all of the bulbs, to see which are opening.

  5. I love Crocuses but for some reason I have trouble getting white ones to establish. I would blame the Squirrels but I don’t think they have colour preferences (and all bulbs are brown anyway!). I do like your Blue Pearl – quite distinctive with their elongated petals.

  6. I am partial to your striped ones. I have had some lilac and white striped, but have never seen the yellow ones. I feel the stripes add another layer of interest and complexity to them, needed since little else is going on when crocuses are out.

    1. Swimray, the striped Gipsy Girl look as good with closed petals as they do with them open. In summer many of my garden beds are more serene, but by springtime I’m ready for a little pizazz on the petals.

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