The temperature conditions for shoot growth and flower formation were characterised for saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Leaf withering occurred during late winter or spring depending on location, and coincided with a rise in temperature. No growth was detectable in the buds during the first 30 days after leaf withering, neither in underground corms nor in lifted corms incubated in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Flower initiation occurred during the first growth stages of the buds. The optimal temperature for flower formation was in the range from 23 to 27 °C, 23 °C temperature being marginally better. To ensure the formation of a maximum number of flowers, the incubation at these temperatures should exceed 50 days, although incubation longer than 150 days resulted in flower abortion. Flower emergence required the transfer of the corms from the conditions of flower formation to a markedly lower temperature (17 °C). Incubation of the corms after lifting at a higher temperature (30 °C), reduced flower initiation and caused the abortion of some of the initiated flowers. No flowers formed in corms incubated at 9 °C. A variable proportion (20–100%) of the corms forced directly at 17 °C without a previous incubation at 23–27 °C formed a single flower. The wide differences in the timing of the phenological stages in different locations we found in this study seemed related to the ambient temperature. Leaf withering was followed shortly by flower initiation, which occurred during late spring or early summer as the rising temperature reached 20 °C. A long hot summer delayed flower emergence which occurred in late autumn as the temperature fell to the range of 15–17 °C.