Updated/Fact-Chacked on May 2, 2022 by John
If you want to some spring colour to burst through your lawn, plant bulbs in your grass during autumn. I’ve just plant 45 crocus bulbs in one of my lawns, now I cannot wait till spring to see how it looks.
The idea is to have short-lived spring plants blooming and dying off before you start cutting your lawn. You wait for the flowers to finish blooming, foliage to turn yellow/brown (3-4 weeks), then cut everything back with a mower.
Note: This is not for people who are meticulous about their lawn care; this is for people who don’t mind letting their lawn grow a bit during spring and for areas with little footfall.
Bulb naturalising is the process of plants getting settled in your grass and returning each year, looking totally natural. You want bulbs that are easy to grow with low maintenance, that sit nicely in your garden design.
Naturalising bulbs is usually carried out by scattering bulbs and planting them where they land; you want a natural look without any order – don’t start creating lines and plant uneven quantities of bulbs.
Certain bulbs will naturalise better, like ‘species bulbs‘: these are bulbs that have not be hybridized and will last longer and spread naturally.
Best Bulbs to Plant in Grass
Snowdrops (Galanthus) – Snowdrops are the first flowers to come through with a bit of warmth, they will even push through a snow. Snowdrop bulbs are tricky to get established, it’s best to plant them ‘in green’ – simply dig up a friends in bloom and plant them; or buy ‘in green’ at a garden centre. Snowdrops are great for early bees and provide essential food for other pollinators.
Crocus – Usually done with spring crocus but you can also do with Autumn Crocus (Colchicum) if you plant in May/June, they will bloom hopefully after your last lawn cut of the year. Top varieties to look our for are: Crocus chrysanthus ‘Advance’, Crocus Sieberi ‘Firefly’, Crocus x cultorum ‘Jeanne D’Arc’, Snow Crocus (Crocus Tommasinianus), ‘Romance’ (Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’).
Daffodils (Narcissus) – Daffodils are the epitome of spring; those yellow flowers symbolise summer is coming. Good times. Daffodil bulbs are one of the most reliable to plant and will come back every year if you don’t cut the foliage too early – allow 6-8 weeks after flowering. There are hundreds of Narcissus varieties, smaller varieties will naturalize better in shorter grass like Narcissus ‘Bulbocodium’, Narcissus ‘Hawera’, Narcissus ‘Obvallaris’.
Tulips – Tulips look amazing in bloom, it’s such shame they don’t last long. They are usually planted into pots and borders, but you can plant them in your grass. Tulips generally bloom in early summer/late spring time, find varieties that bloom early as possible so you won’t have leave your grass too long before you can cut it. Tulip ‘Van der Neer’ (Purple bloom), Tulip ‘Orange Emperor’ (Orange bloom) and Tulipa ‘Sylvestris’ (yellow bloom) all flower around march time.
Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) – Some muscari varieties do well in grass like ‘Muscari armeniacum’, they bloom in early spring and last around 3 weeks. Muscari are easy to grow and can last for years.
Allium – Not generally used in lawns, but we say why not! Look for early blooming allium. Most Allium start blooming in May, one of the earliest are ‘Early Emperor’ – you will need to hold off from cutting your lawn until June though.
How to Plant Bulbs in Your Lawn
Step 1: Choose the plants you like from the list above
Step 2: Dig a hole using a bulb planter or trowel depending on the size of you bulb. Crocus and small bulbs are very easy to do with a trowel if your lawn soil is moist. Ideally, according to Alan T, you plant 3 times the height of the bulb deep.
Step 3: Insert the bulb root face down, the top usually has a nipple. If you are totally unsure with a few bulbs, place them on their side, shoots will find the light.
Step 4: Cover bulb back up with turf.
Step 5: Water and wait till spring.
Planting Bulbs in a Lawn Tips
- Don’t use a fertilizer as the grass will thrive more that bulb
- If you are planting a group of bulbs, you can cut a section of lawn and peel it back, adding 10-20 bulbs into your section
- If you buy your bulbs in batches like me, use any excess in pots
- Some of the large and giant crocus bloom later, some as late as May. Don’t buy this variety if you plant to cut your lawn early
- Locations with good sun and well drained soil do best with spring bulbs in grass
Planting Bulbs in Grass FAQs
When can you cut the grass after spring bulbs have bloomed?
It’s best to wait 4 weeks after they have bloomed when the foliage has died off and turned yellow/brown.
Will grass choke out plants?
No, the right plants like crocus and daffodils with thrive each year
Can I plant flowers without removing grass?
Yes if you have small bulbs like crocus, you can simply make small hole with a stick and pop the bulbs in
How do you plant wildflowers in grass?
Wildflowers are planted with seeds instead of bulbs
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.