How Can I Naturalize Bulbs in my Lawn

If you go to big botanical gardens in the early spring, one of the prettiest things you will see is a big lawn full of naturalized crocus and daffodils popping up through the spring grass. If you have a larger lawn area that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, or a lawn-covered slope that could use some brightening, this is a fun project to add interest. The key to naturalizing bulbs is patience. Patience to let the clumps grow over time and patience to let the grass grow in the spring after the bulbs bloom.

Selecting your Bulbs

The idea behind creating a large naturalized bulb area is to allow the bulbs to grow and mature over time so that there are large clumps, sweeps, and drifts of bulbs. Therefore, you want to select bulbs for this project that perennialize well in the area where you live, and that can live in the same conditions that your lawn has. Most lawns are in sunny areas, which works well for the bulbs. Very early bloomers such as crocus can sometimes naturalize well in a lawn under trees, because they’ll get plenty of sun before the trees leaf out. Bulbs with grass-like leaves are also a plus because they will blend in better with the lawn.

Good choices for naturalizing

  • Tete-a-tete daffodils (smaller daffodils)
  • Crocus
  • Snowdrops
  • Grape hyacinth

Those are all relatively small bulbs (8 inches or shorter) that blend well with the grass.

For the biggest impact, plant large drifts of one type of bulb, rather than mixing up several kinds in one planting.

Planting the Bulbs

If you’re going to plant naturalized drifts of bulbs, you need at least 100 of each type of bulb. If it’s your first year, you might want to start with 200.  Plant bulbs in groups of three spaced a foot apart. This gives them room to grow and spread. You can use marking paint to mark a sweep or drift pattern in which you want to scatter plant the bulbs.

Spring blooming bulbs should be planted three to four times as deep as their height. If you have problems with squirrels or other animals digging up the bulbs, spray the bulbs with repellant and let the repellant spray dry before you plant the bulbs. Then plant them and sprinkle some ground cayenne pepper on top of the bulbs.

Maintaining the Naturalized Bulbs

Naturalized bulbs need the same care as other bulbs in that they want to stay dry during their dormant period. Don’t plant big sweeps of bulbs in areas that you irrigate frequently. The bulbs will rot in the ground. Slopes work well for naturalizing because they drain quickly.

Let the bulbs come up and bloom in the spring. After they have finished blooming, fertilize with a general balanced fertilizer. You need to let the bulb foliage remain until it turns yellow. This could mean that your lawn will start to grow. You’re going to have to be patient and not mow until the bulbs turn yellow! Once the foliage turns, you can mow the lawn at its regular height.

The bulbs will go dormant and wait to bloom until next year. As long as you don’t irrigate the area frequently, the bulbs should continue to grow and multiply for a great spring show! 

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