Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Crocus Lawn: You CAN Grow That!

You too can have an enchanting lawn filled with crocus blooms!

I have previously posted here on this blog about this house in NW Washington DC, that is pretty nondescript all year, except in March, when the front lawn explodes into a crocus lawn. This year, I noticed at least another 10 such flowering lawns in my neighborhood and I've added my own to the list as well.


To get one of your own, start with a turf grass lawn -- the thinner and more shade-challenged the better. A thick, lustrous lawn does not allow for the bulbs to emerge and succeed.


The best bulbs to use are the Tommy Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus). They are tiny bulbs (just a few centimeters across). They also naturalize and spread by seed. The Snow Crocus (C. chrysanthus) is another option, though they are not as prolific nor as squirrel-proof as the Tommies. The traditional crocus (C. vernus types) are not suitable for this application as they too large and come up too late in the season.

Mark your calendars for this October/November. Buy at least one hundred crocus bulbs at a local garden center (actually pretty cheap project - you can get a bag of 100 for $30).

Or place your order this spring with a mail-order bulb company to guarantee the best selection -- Tommy Crocus often sell out fast. (BTW, Anne Hardman and I will be at the Beltsville Garden Club plant sale this Saturday, 4/12/14 with a bucketful of Crocus tommasinianus bulbs. Get them while supplies last!)

Plant them randomly, A good technique is to throw them out, scattering by hand, and plant them where they land. (Unless of course your yard is like mine, and they'd all roll into one sunken spot together.) I find a long, thin dandelion weeder is the ideal tool for planting these tiny bulbs and you can pull a weed a stick in a few bulbs in that same hole. Then sit back all winter. Enjoy the following March-April!

Now here is the real key: do NOT mow in the spring until the crocus blossoms and foliage have died back on their own. If you mow too early and cut off the foliage, you are cutting off their food and they won't come back well for you in future years and what you want is for them to not only come back but also to multiply. If you simply have to mow, set your mower at the highest setting possible (3" is ideal), so you are higher than most of the crocus foliage.


Another precaution, if you irrigate your lawn, this will not work. Bulbs need premium drainage and cannot stand to be in constantly wet soil. They will rot. Also, don’t use weed-killers. Don’t fertilize. Don’t aerate. Basically, be lazy and your crocus will multiply.

All who are involved with You Can Grow That! (YCGT!) believe that plants and gardening enhance our quality of life. We want people to be successful with what they grow and to become more aware of the many gifts that horticulture brings. Find out more at http://www.youcangrowthat.com/.

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