Naturalizing Bulbs

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening.

As we enter into the fall gardening season, our thoughts turn to what bulbs to plant for next spring’s garden. Naturalizing is probably one of the most attractive ways to grow bulbs. Basically you group your plants of the same type and plant them informally in patches or drifts. For the best success choose naturalized plants that are very hardy to your area and generally grow well with little help. In order to multiply they will have to be able to withstand the competition with grasses and natural weeds.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening.

Bulbs for naturalizing include tulips and daffodils. Naturalized daffodil bulbs  when mass planted can create a beautiful woodland setting.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening

Smaller bulbs such as scilla, grape hyacinths and snow drops work magic in lawns or make great rock garden plants.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. SCILLIA

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. GRAPE HYACINTHS

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. SNOWDROPS

Anemone, fritillaria, crocus, squill and some lilies will also work well. Basically any bulbous plants which are good self propagators can be used in naturalizing.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. ANEMONES

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. CROCUS


You can create quite an eye catching sight by using many inexpensive small bulbs. Garden bulbs can be purchased at most local nurseries. For a greater selection of cultivars along with more exotic cultivars for your naturalized garden, mail order growers are your best source. They specialize in bulbs and usually have attractive catalogues or web sites to gaze and drool over.

Initially the work load is very high as each bulb must be planted, but future years will be pretty much work free. As the bulbs divide and multiply they will fill in the open spaces. Should you decide to naturalize bulbs on your lawn you will have to delay cutting your lawn in the spring until your bulbs have finished blooming. Best to choose only early flowering cultivars for this application so the lawn does does not get too unruly long.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. CYCLAMEN

Stick to one species and plan ahead for what color you want to showcase in an area. If you plan to have one color blend into another, set the colors out separately then where the colors meet swap around a few bulbs so you get a gradual transition from one to color to the next. If you are planting in longer,orchard style grass, you can use larger bulbs like tulips, narcissus and bluebells.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. DOG'S TOOTH VIOLET

It’s important to choose bulbs that are suitable to your growing conditions. Different bulbs require different soil types and sun exposure. When purchasing bulbs you are usually given the requirments on the label, so read thoroughly and only plant those bulbs which you can provide a happy site for. Also pay close attention to the planting depths that are recommended for each bulb type. If you plant too deep the bulb may run out of energy before the stems reach the surface and if you plant too shallow they might winter kill.  One thing constant with all bulbs is that your soil must be well draining. Bulbs left in wet, soggy soil are sure to rot.

Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening. WILD GARLIC

A simple way to space your bulbs is to scatter them by tossing them by the handful.  Then simply plant them where they fall. You can dig individual holes with a hand-trowel or use a bulb planter. Adding a bit of bulb dust and food to each hole will get your bulbs off to a good start. After planting give the area a thorough watering.


Wild garlic / Arum lily / Glory of the Snow / Lily-of -the-valley / Winter Aconite / Dog’s-tooth violet / Yellow star of Bethlehem / Summer snowflake / Meadow saxifrage / Cyclamen

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Naturalizing Bulbs with Sensible Gardening

(Photos from Pixabay)