GARDEN GODDESS: You can grow a crocus lawn

GARDEN GODDESS • KATHY JENTZ

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

There is a house in the Takoma DC neighborhood at 6th and Cedar just off Piney-Branch Rd that I pass by frequently and never notice – until that is, March rolls around, and their entire front yard explodes into a crocus lawn. Oh, how I want it! I got rid of all my turf grass lawns, but for 2-3 weeks each year, this lawn is like a faerie kingdom and I almost regret that action.

This past spring, I noticed at least another 10 such flowering lawns full of naturalizing crocus in my North Takoma-East Silver Spring neighborhood as well as the small strip of land adjacent to the Takoma metro station.

To get one of your own, start with a turf A Crocus Lawn: You CAN Grow That! grass lawn. Mark your calendars for this October/November. Buy at least one hundred crocus bulbs (actually, a pretty cheap project – you can get a bag of 100 for $30). 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. Sit back all winter then enjoy the show that following March.

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Photo by Kathy Jentz.

Now here is the real key: do NOT mow in the spring until all 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.

A few more tips:

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.

The thinner and more shade-challenged that your lawn is, 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.

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.

A final precaution: don’t use weed-killers. Don’t fertilize. Don’t aerate. Basically, be lazy about lawn maintenance and your crocus will multiply!


This article originally appeared in of Washington Gardener blog in slightly different version.

About the Author

Kathy Jentz
Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener magazine and is a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Washington Gardener is all about gardening where you live. She can be reached at @WDCgardener on Twitter and welcomes your local DMV gardening questions.