Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Video Wednesday: How to Plant a Crocus Lawn

Crocus lawns are popping up all over the Washington, DC, region. They look so enchanting and romantic. They must be a lot of work, right? Wrong!

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

The best bulbs to use are the ‘Tommy’ Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) straight species. They are tiny bulbs (just a few centimeters across). They can 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 100 of the Tommy Crocus bulbs at a local garden center. Or place your order this spring with a mail-order bulb company to guarantee the best selection -- Tommy Crocus often sell out fast.

Plant them randomly in your lawn. 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. You can even do double-duty by pulling out a weed and sticking in a few crocus bulbs in that same hole. Next, sit back all winter. Finally, enjoy the show the following March!

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. 

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine and photographed/edited by intern Allison O'Reilly.

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