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Janet Macunovich

Bulbs naturalized in lawn

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Janet and Steven,

I read about the scilla in the latest newsletter. I have quite a bit but it's contained in the borders. I can contain the snowdrops too.


My question is about naturalizing some other bulbs in the lawn. I have tommies now which are doing okay. Obviously I want the earliest blooming so I can cut the lawn before July! What do you recommend?


These are the ones I'd like to consider for the lawn:

winter aconite





Ornithogalum umbellatum (I think this one may be invasive)

grape hyacinth (these form such big clumps in the garden, I'm afraid they'd overpower the lawn)


A few basic questions:

Can the grass compete with the bulbs? Will these take over the lawn? In the garden bulbs should be divided----is this an issue when they're planted in the lawn?

I think I have enough questions to make up an article! - Lynn -



Almost any topic is enough for an article! This one, for sure. We'll start collecting info for something to run before bulb buying time. First step:

We'll move this question and our answer to the Forum and see what others have to say


Looking for comments:

1) Who's tried to naturalize bulbs in a lawn?

2) Which bulbs?

3) How did it work? When did you mow? Could you keep the bulbs from going beyond the lawn?

4) How many years did you/have you had the bulbs in the lawn?


We ourselves have mixed feelings about bulbs in lawns -- so pretty but so many people can't deal with the transition period of shaggy and fading foliage with tall grass. Most beautiful we've seen, Kew Gardens' snow crocus lawn. And perhaps most practical as the crocus do spread but not crazily. But we figure rabbits could ruin that in many yards since crocuses are favorites of rabbits. And deer.


Crocus tommasianus - this is what you mean by tommies? We haven't tried them in lawn. Have some in our garden that have been there a long time but not ever spread much except by increasing the clumps. Have heard they aren't really good at self sowing in north latitudes. Great spreaders-by-seed in the Mediterranean. Hereabouts, seems like they can spread some seed in beds where soil is bare as the seed ripens, but not really known to naturalize in lawn. But if you planted enough of them to start with ($$) maybe they'd make a nice lavender lawn early in spring. Especially interested if anyone in zone 6 or colder has such a lawn.


Squill, we love them but when you say you can contain them we are very curious how, since we've never seen that done. They do get so thick in a lawn that overseeding the lawn each year is pretty important so that new grass can get going in spaces overfilled by squill foliage that crowded the grass.


Winter aconite. Figure the round yellow flowers in early spring may make others' think "Dandelions!" and in some neighborhoods cause quite a ruckus. We think dandelions are beautiful but run into more people who think of them as "Those people who don't take care of their lawn and make our lawns weedy with seed."


You didn't mention daffodils. Good. Nice for a meadow that can go un-mowed until late June, really nice. But in a regular lawn not so great. They come so late, need to stay around as foliage at least a few weeks, and don't spread by seed but by clumps increasing in size, which also increases the amount of grass killed by the clumps' long tenancy. So a person ends up mowing around the clumps to keep the bulbs returning with good bloom but also keep the grass within socially acceptable limits. Then after the bulb-mow-down it's necessary to reseed the spots made bare by bulbs.


Star of Bethlehem. Ornithogalum umbellatum. NOOOOOOOOOO. Last week while working in a garden the other gardener we work with there walked by and said "If you're looking for me I'll be spending my last hour working on that S-O-B out by the lamppost."


We both cracked up because she was making a new connection between its name and a swear-word acronym. We've never heard it or thought of it before but it's very fitting. The bulbs not only spread very aggressively but we are pretty certain the plants are allelopathic because they make even bigger plants and woody plants in their area decline.

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Guest dcsmith796

S.O.B is the only thing that regularly pokes up through my smothering mulch. It also blooms with a rather unremarkable flower that lasts for about ten minutes, followed by thin, weedy foliage. Not recommended!


I will admit they smell kinda nice. And they fill the space before its bordermate Aegopodium wakes up to carry the invasive torch through the summer.

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I've had thick bark mulch on my easement for 2 years now. Last year I augmented it with a weed barrier followed by several more inches of wood chips. Guess what's trying to poke through all that, after being absent for 2 seasons?

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Guest dcsmith796

Looks like Janet is right. Allelopathy confirmed.


Among leaf extracts of 71 plant

species, lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) growthwas suppressed bymost

cover crops including trefoil [Oxalis brasiliensis Lodd. ex Knowl.

& West.), star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum L.), moss

pink (Phlox subulata L.), European pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium

L.), red spiderlily [Lycoris radiate (L. Herit.) Herb], creeping thyme

(Thymusserpyllum L.) andromanchamomile (Chamaemelumnobile

L.). Trefoil, red spiderlily, moss pink, trefoil and creeping thyme

leached in agar reduced the radicle length of weed species by

8–31, 14–24, 11–43, 31–74 and 22–67%, respectively, of the

untreated control.


Great now I have to work harder to get rid of it.


I had no idea creeping Thymus was that strongly allelopathic though. That puts it well into the lead of groundcovers I was considering for a certain spot.

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Planting a bulb garden is an easy way to coax your winter-tired garden back to work with cheerful flower shows long before most perennials push their way out of the soil.

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When our subdivision had to repave our streets the front 3 feet of everyone's property was dug up. So I planted yellow crocus in four areas in 2004. I still get some coming up but they do decrease over time. I also wait a month or more before I mow the foliage. I just mow around the clumps and live with the tufts. I would not recommend yellow as it doesn't show up as well as pink, blue or white.



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