Flowering Lawns: Bulbs

Many gardeners plant bulbs in the garden, but did you know you can also plant bulbs in your grass? Flowering bulb lawns are a great way to add spring color to the lawn (especially yards that are still dormant in early spring!), increase the diversity of the yard, and provide food for pollinators! Win, win, win!

What Bulbs Should I Plant in the Lawn?

We recommend crocus (Crocus spp.), grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.), and even sunny daffodils (Narcissus spp.). Most of these flowers come in a variety of colors – just make sure you choose a species suited to your growing zone! Bonus? Bulbs are great for planting under trees since they usually come up and fade away before trees grow their leaves and shade out the soil below.

Sunday ProTip: If your goal is to support pollinators, go with crocus or grape hyacinth – they’re great sources of pollinator forage. Daffodils, while beautiful, typically aren’t as good for providing food for pollinators.

When to Plant Bulbs in the Lawn

Since all these species are spring bulbs, you’ll want to plant them in the fall. Why? Spring bulbs store their energy in fleshy, underground structures and require a period of cold to break their dormancy period and stimulate flowering. Planting in fall means they get enough time in the cool ground before they bloom in spring. Typically, spring bulbs are planted after the soil temperature cools below 60°F, but before the soil freezes. For most regions, the best time to plant is between September and November.

How to Plant Bulbs in the Lawn

First, you need to determine how many bulbs you’re going to plant. This will depend on the type of bulb you choose, the size of the area to be planted, and the desired flower density. Daffodils can be planted at densities of up to 5 bulbs/sq. ft., while smaller bulbs like crocus or grape hyacinth can be planted at up to 25 bulbs/sq. ft. Of course, if you’re a “less is more” kind of gardener, you can reduce your planting densities as desired! 

Planting tips differ a bit depending on whether you’re planting your bulbs into a new or an existing lawn. 

For new lawns:

  1. Prep the soil. You can dig individual holes for each bulb, or, if you are mass planting, you can loosen all of the soil. Generally, a planting depth of around 3 in. is deep enough for most bulbs. Once you prep your soil, mix in some slow release bulb fertilizer, so the bulb roots get a burst of nutrients before winter hits. 
  2. Plant the bulbs (and the grass).  Pop the bulbs into their holes or scatter over the loosened soil. Cover the bulbs with 3 in. of soil, then seed, sod, sprig, or plug your grass.
  3. Water. Irrigate well after planting. 

 

For existing lawns:

  1. Prep the soil. Dig 3 in. holes (save the plug!) and sprinkle in around 1 tsp. of slow release bulb fertilizer. 
  2. Plant the bulbs. Plant the bulbs with the pointed end facing up and the flat base down. Replace the soil and plug of turf on top of the bulb hole.
  3. Water. Irrigate well after planting.

Sunday ProTip: Planting bulbs in clusters looks best, since bulbs tend to spread over time, ruining any straight lines or designs. Leave a few inches between bulbs to allow for growth!

How to Care for Lawn Bulbs

Irrigate your bulb lawn just like you normally would throughout the fall and again in spring if you don’t get much rainfall – but don’t overwater, since this can cause the bulbs to rot. Generally, lawn bulbs can persist with regular lawn maintenance – no extra fertilizer needed. Just make sure you leave the bulb leaves alone until they turn brown and die back – all those nutrients will be transferred to the bulb so it can come back the following spring. Once they’re brown, you can get out with your mower for the first mow of the season

Most bulbs, when cared for properly, will come back year after year, unless you live in the deep south. Over time, bulbs may produce offshoots that will spread throughout the lawn. If flowers start to fade over time, you can plant new bulbs periodically to keep your lawn blooming!

Cited Sources

Cornwell, R. Bulbs & More: Planting & Care. University of Illinois Extension. 

Meyer, M.H. Planting bulbs, tubers and rhizomes. University of Minnesota Extension. 

Richardson, M.D., J. McCalla, T. Buxton and F. Lulli. Incorporating Early Spring Bulbs into Dormant Warm-season Turfgrasses. HortTechnology.

Russ, K. and B. Polomski. Spring Flowering Bulbs. Clemson Cooperative Extension. 

Wisdom, M.M., M.D. Richardson, D.E. Karcher, D.C. Steinkraus and G.V. McDonald. Flowering Persistence and Pollinator Attraction of Early-spring Bulbs in Warm-season Lawns. HortScience.