Planting bulbs in turf grass

Jan 15, 2010

Here's a quick how too on planting bulbs in turf. Originally printed in the Neil Sperry's Gardens E-Newsletter.

My Favorite Things…Leslie Finical Halleck

Crocus_turf1I’m pretty busy during the spring season, so I don’t get to spend very much time tending my garden. There are, however, a few keys things I do during winter to ensure that my spring garden puts on a great show in my absence! One of my favorite things to do in my own garden is to naturalize bulbs in turf areas. Clustering bulbs such as crocus, daffodils and other perennial bulbs in your lawn creates a natural woodland look in the spring garden. 

If you haven’t yet gotten your hands on some spring flowering bulbs, there’s still time. You can continue planting certain perennial bulbs through January and early February most garden centers will still have a selection of these bulbs on hand right now. The key to naturalizing bulbs in turf is to choose tough, easy to grow bulbs that require minimal care in the garden. Daffodils are as tough as they come and look best when clustered in groups around the base of trees. Small bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth can be placed in more open areas of your lawn and are easily planted into turf grass.

For large bulbs such as daffodils, you’ll either want to use a round bulb planter to slice out “plugs” of turf, then drop the bulb in the hole and replace the plug. Or, dig out an 8” deep hole to accommodate multiple bulbs. Be careful to retain the section of turf, place bulbs in the hole and then replace soil and pat the turf down on top.  Small bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, can simply be pressed into the soil, about 3” deep. If your soil is dry or hard, you may want to go ahead and use a bulb planter to remove a plug of soil and turf. It’s best to plant a cluster of bulbs together so the planting looks more natural. Generally a grouping of approximately 8 to 12 bulbs looks best, especially with daffodils.

Most of these bulbs will be up and blooming before your turf grass begins to actively grow, so you normally won’t be mowing at the same time. Once your grass begins to grow and the spring bulb flowers have faded, you’ll need to mow around the bulb foliage for a little while until the leaves have a chance to die down naturally. This will ensure they have enough time to store food for next year’s blooms. Then, you can mow right over them.

Daffodils and crocus provide such a cheery welcome to spring. Once you drop them in the ground, all you have to do then is sit back and enjoy the show!

Good varieties for planting in turf:

Daffodils Narcissus

Crocus Crocus spp.

Summer Snowflake Leucojum aestivum

Grape Hyacinth Muscari spp.

Spanish Bluebells Hyacinthoides hispanica

Rain Lilies Zephyranthes spp.

Copper Lilies Habranthus spp.

Surprise Lilies Lycoris spp.

Leslie Finical Halleck is a horticulturist and general manager for North Haven Gardens in Dallas, Texas.

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