© Janet Davis


When Mother Nature landscapes a meadow with indigenous spring bulbs, she doesn’t plant them in regimental rows or geometric carpets; instead she lets a breeze scatter them in drifts. 


To create this spontaneous look in our gardens, we need to mimic her “designs”.


Start by choosing reliably perennial bulbs that multiply over time to form large colonies, or look for bulbs in catalogues that are labelled suitable for naturalizing.  Don’t waste money on costly cultivars; they’re often less vigorous and may be too bold or stiff-looking in a natural setting. 


Especially lovely in a meadow setting are daffodils, properly called narcissus.  The Netherlands Flowerbulb Information Center recommends the following narcissus cultivars as best for naturalizing:  Actaea, Barrett Browning, Birma, Carlton, February Gold, Flower Record, Fortune, Hawera, Ice Follies, Jack Snipe, Minnow, Mount Hood, Peeping Tom, Salome, Suzy, Tête-à-Tête. 


How To Naturalize Daffodils


Here’s a step-by-step guide to naturalizing daffodils in your lawn:


  1. Choose an area of the lawn that doesn’t get much foot traffic.  Scatter a couple dozen bulbs, allowing them to fall haphazardly to create an au naturel look.  Separate those that fall too close together so they have space to multiply.
  2. Shift a portion of the bulbs to one side, keeping the random pattern.  With a sharp spade at an angle (a border spade is perfect for this job), slice off the top 2 inches (5 cm) of sod, carefully rolling it back as you go to expose the soil underneath.
  3. Loosen the soil with your spde, and work a small handful of boneameal or balanced granular fertilizer or bulb-booster into the soil al few inches below where the base of the bulbs will rest when they’re planted.  Bulbs are planted at a depth of two or three times their height – usually 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) for daffodils.
  4. Replace the bulbs that were set aside, repeating the haphazard pattern.  Plant the bulbs, pointed end up.  Replace the sod, tamp it in place and water well.  Repeat the process with the remaining bulbs.
  5. The fall-planted daffodils will make a cheerful show next spring.  Remove the flowers as they fade, but allow the leaves to yellow before mowing.  The foliage feeds next year’s bloom.


Other spring bulbs that naturalize well include snowdrops, scilla, puschkinia, chionodoxa, crocus, grape hyacinths, anemones, leucojum, camassia and small tulip species.


Plant the bulbs by early October to allow time for root growth before winter sets in.


Naturalized bulbs look attractive scattered beside a walkway, under a deciduous tree, on a rocky slope, near a stream, in an orchard, or simply planted in a patch of lawn that’s not subjected to frequent foot traffic.  For unmown, rough grass areas, consider introducing later-flowering meadow species, such as oxeye daisy, goldenrod, purple aster or a native columbine such as Aquilegia canadensis.   


Adapted from an article that appeared originally in Canadian Gardening magazine


Back to Bulbs