crocuses/grape hyacinths - success rate

posierosie_zone7a__October 26, 2013

Hi everyone,

Years ago I saw someone's back lawn that was filled with purple crocuses which I assume multiplied over possibly decades. It was a literal carpet and such a beautiful sight!

I am in my first home for a little over a year and have no Spring bulbs! Spring is my favorite time of year mostly bc i love the blooms. So, I bought 60 muscari and 80 crocus bulbs and randomly placed them around my lawn. I got them at HD a few weeks ago and kept in my basement fridge.

I have a few questions:
1. What is the success rate I can expect in general? By this I mean, what percentage of bulbs fail?
2. The package indicate they "naturalize". What does that mean? The clumps get bigger? I would love some spreading but my understanding is this takes quite a long time.
3. I would love to go back and buy a bunch more for a spectacular show in the Spring. However, since I do not know the answers to the above questions I feel like I should do a test season to see if anything even comes up. Also, if they spread like crazy, why spend extra when a bit of patience will do the same?

Any advice will be helpful!

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The only reliable crocus is tomassinianus which seems not to be impacted by rodents and pests. I've seen lawns full of them.

You will have to avoid mowing until the foliage starts to die down. Otherwise your bulbs lose the chlorophyll necessary to store enough energy for next year. Set the mower blade on the highest setting.

You won't have any worries about grape hyacinths as they are a bit thuggish. Nothing bothers them and they seed about plus produce many offset bulbs. I don't know that I've seen them in lawns.There may be a time you want to remove them as they will take over. A garden in the neighborhood is overrun with them. Two gardeners dug up several five gallon buckets last year and that barely made a dent in the garden beds.

You should also be aware that this time of year the foliage on most grape hyacinths emerges now and remains for the entire winter. Sometimes it looks bad due to weather damage. I have seen Scilla siberica in lawns and that was not a problem because the foliage emerged and died down at the same time as the Crocus.

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by carol23 on Sat, Oct 26, 13 at 19:49

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 7:45PM
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Dear Carol,

Thank you - so helpful! I would not mind lots of grape hyacinths but my lawn is au naturel and quite scrubby already (I am hoping a few seasons of reseeding might help fight the weeds).

I just got a "mix" package or two from HD for the crocuses. Since it is mild here, I might see about getting some tomassinianus & scilla siberica if still available online. I probably have a bit longer to put them in the ground.

I know it is not everyone's taste, but I really like the look and I can save my flower beds for my perennials.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 8:46PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

'I know it is not everyone's taste' ...... well it's certainly to my taste, Posierosie. I think crocuses and many other small bulbs look far better in grass than in flowerbeds where they get visually overwhelmed and splashed by soil when it rains. Even earlier than Crocuses are Winter Aconites which also naturalise well. Then there are snowdrops, small narcissi, species tulip .... Good luck with your flowering spring carpet.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 3:49AM
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ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

If you want some small bulbs to naturalize, try the common blue squill, scilla siberica. It is not "thuggish" like grape hyacinths, but will spread by seed into a lawn with no problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: blue squill in lawn

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 8:59AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

You may want to add a few more. I planted 350 crocus last fall and they were what I considered a good start, but not exactly an explosion of spring color. It was a lawn planting of mostly species types, so yours might be a little showier, but even with their little blooms my snow crocus went a long way in warming my springtime soul.
I expect the tomassinianus to both seed out and clump up, the others I'm not sure of. (That would be what a good naturalizing bulb would do)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 9:42PM
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I'm an incompetent gardener and buy bulbs on sale to plant at my Mom's house (where I can't water them). Grape Hyacinth was one of the few bulbs I bought in the bargain bin last Fall that consistently came up last Spring. A warning...they are small. I have seen them in a lawn of a house I passed once.

"Naturalizing" just means the flower spreads in some way...usually by producing offsets and clumps. Many serious gardeners *hate* this because they have a precise idea of where everything should be and this produces flowers where you don't want them. I like this, because I am too lazy and cheap to put in hundreds of bulbs...I prefer to plant and let nature finish them job. I get satisfaction from the idea something I plant may grow and spread without me having to do anything.

The other thing that has spread for me is Lily of the Valley. They spread like crazy, bloom a long time, and smell nice. They do have big, conspicuous leaves, though.

I am told daffodils are naturalizing in many parts of the country. (Nearly everything except a few hybrids is naturalizing somewhere...the question is whether it can naturalize in your climate. Tulips naturalize quite nicely in Turkey and parts of California.)

Of course, planting anything from another country that naturalizes can be bad for the environment...they can spread into the wild and out-compete natives. Native butterflies often can't use them. I like the idea of naturalizing, native flowers that attract butterflies but have found few...Nodding onion, Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense). There is a native North American species of Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 3:45PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

IMO a 'serious' gardener who 'hates' naturalising has not yet become truly serious - they're still at the unimaginative control-freak stage. Naturalising doesn't mean letting nature run riot, it means letting nature offer you ideas to extend your own limited imagination. Just take a look at the work of someone like Christopher Lloyd. Or the naturalised bulbs at Kew, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 5:39AM
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princessgrace79(8 PNW)

Grape hyacinth naturalize around here and in yards, I see them growing in landscapes that clearly aren't well tended lol. I actually used to think they were a weed they were so common. Hardy cyclamen also have spread into my lawn although they really prefer the shade.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 2:04AM
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kittybouquet sells crocus and grape hyacinth by the 100s and 1000s. It is too late for me to add any more to my lawn, but I am planning to buy a 1000 crocus bulbs for the lawn next year. I had grape hyacinth (only a few) in my lawn when I lived in NJ that were planted by the previous owner.
Thanks for the tip about scilla. I might try that too. I am dreaming of a carpet of flowers in spring. I also want to try species tulips.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 3:52PM
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Thank you everyone for your input. I can see the tops of some of my daffodils peeking through and I am hoping my crocuses and muscari are working their magic under my lawn. Very exciting! If I remember, I'll try to post a picture or two.

Slightly of topic, I take walks with a friend from work and we were watching all the Spring bloom last year.. I pointed out some naturalized crocuses around older houses and she said they looked messy.... Huh, made me a bit self conscious about my personal taste. I am glad there are others that enjoy the same aesthetic.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 10:39PM
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I also want to try hardy cyclamen for my shady wooded area in my backyard. They look so delicate and pretty!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 10:43PM
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There is a certain sort of person who likes to micro-manage plants and dislikes anything that isn't under their complete control. These are the sorts of people who chop down old trees that aren't in the exact right place and replace them with sterile looking lawns, arbor vitae, and an occasional row of tulips.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 7:07PM
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That might describe my friend. I like a look of natural abundance. :)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 10:05PM
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A natural woodland (well maybe with a few more flowers than normal), a prairie, or a marsh...all have lots of charm. Except for mosquitos I think I wouldn't mind any of them as a natural display near my house (I don't want to live in any of them..due to water rotting wood, prairie grass fire, woodland termites/roof dmg).
I'm happy to mock-up the actual habitat near the house..with a bit more control due to house concerns. All have their own loveliness and lushness.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 10:14AM
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Hi everyone,

Here is a portion of my lawn. Not so bad for a first year. I might put more in the island between the sidewalk and road as my children walk less there.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 6:01PM
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Close ups - yes, my lawn is scraggily

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Last one showing grape hyacinths with crocuses.

I had quite the bunny ravaging especially my poor tulips. Otherwise, I think there would have been twice the amount of flowers. I might buy some deer repellent for next year.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 6:06PM
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Oops, double post!

This post was edited by Posierosie on Fri, Apr 4, 14 at 18:12

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 6:08PM
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I wouldn't mind grape hyacinths if they were not so aggressive around my mailbox. They even have gotten into the grass.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 2:57PM
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geoforce(z7a SE PA)

I have Scilla siberica, scilla bifolia and puschkinia libonatica naturalized all over my back yard. They actually are doing a lot better than the grape hyacinths. Also, none of these tend to clump, but spread by seed in very natural drifts. Also, they are much smaller foliage and die off quite early to allow mowing.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:33PM
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