Naturalizing Bulbs

naturalized bulbs for fallInterrupt more mundane outdoor chores and plant a sea of cheery spring bulbs right in the lawn or tucked into the ground cover. Planting bulbs in “drifts” where they can colonize is called “naturalizing”. Crocus, early daffodils, grape hyacinths, and snowdrops are great candidates for planting under trees or amongst the ivy or pachysandra. After a few years, the bulbs multiply, covering large areas in a casual, freeform swath. Naturalizing spring bulbs is a great way to welcome spring while adding early season color, before the turf grass greens up.

Selecting spring bulbs for naturalizing

In the Washington metro area, USDA Zone 7B, late October and early November is the right time to plant most spring-blooming bulbs. When selecting bulbs for purchase, fresher and bigger are better. Inexpensive big box store prices may be tempting, but smaller sized bulbs, often suffering from dehydration, often prove disappointing.

A larger bulb will produce healthier, more and longer lasting flowers. Garden centers and local nurseries often sell loose bulbs bought in bulk and open for inspection. Select specimens that are large, firm, and free from mold or premature flower buds. Mail order sellers usually list bulb size, which is measured in centimeters around the circumference. Catalogs also usually note which varieties are deer and squirrel resistant, along with planting instructions.

narcissus bulbs

Plant flower bulbs as soon as possible after purchase. But if they must be stored, place them in a cool, dry spot with good air circulation. Do not store bulbs in the refrigerator, as gas from fruit also stored there can damage them.

Spring bulbs for naturalizing

  • Crocus (Crocus spp.)
  • Daffodil (Narcissus sp.)
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.)
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.)
  • Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa spp.)
  • Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda)
  • Wood Squill (Scilla spp.)
  • Striped Squill (Puschkinia spp.)
  • Rock Garden Iris
  • Species Tulip (Tulipa spp.)
  • Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
  • Spring Starflower (Ipheion spp.)
  • Winter Aconite (Eranthis spp.)

Since lush grass may prove too competitive with naturalized bulbs, woodland or shadier yard locations are ideal. The bulbs will bloom before trees “leaf out”, providing plenty of sun for the blooming display. Other great locations for naturalizing bulbs include under taller, flowering shrubs and small trees.

crocus naturalized bulbs

Bulb foliage feeds next season’s flowers and should be left to die on the plant. Beds of naturalized bulbs do best where the dying foliage is left undisturbed. This may mean letting turf grass get longer before spring’s first cut. Or, try naturalizing some bulbs along a fence or at the edge of a planting bed or field or meadow.

Some naturalizing bulb sources

Mail order sources of bulbs often offer a wide variety of sizes and varieties along with great discounts late in the planting season. Some good bulb sources include:

 
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