What Is Naturalizing: How To Naturalize Flower Bulbs In The Landscape

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By Jackie Carroll

In nature, bulbs don’t grow in straight rows, neat clusters or shaped masses. Instead they grow and bloom in irregular groups scattered across the landscape. We can duplicate this look and give the landscape a natural appearance by naturalizing bulbs. Read on to find out if naturalizing flowers like this is right for your landscape.

What is Naturalizing?

Naturalizing is creating an area in the landscape where flowers are planted randomly. Over the years the bulbs in an undisturbed area increase in numbers to form masses of spectacular spring flowers. In the right location, naturalizing flowers is a great way to create an interesting landscape with less time and at a lower cost than building flower borders. Best of all, bulb naturalizing in landscapes is easy.

How to Naturalize Flower Bulbs


The first thing to consider when naturalizing flowering bulbs is the type of bulb. Naturalizing in landscapes calls for bulbs that grow well in your area without special treatment. Don’t choose bulbs that need extra chilling or digging up for winter storage. Good bulbs for naturalizing include:

Fancy tulips die out after a couple of years and like to be pampered, but the species tulips that are the ancestors of modern hybrids (aka: heirloom bulbs) do well in a naturalized landscape.

You can naturalize some bulbs in grassy areas. Bulbs such as snowdrops, crocus, squill and winter aconites do well in grassy areas. Before you decide to fill your lawn with bulbs, consider the fact that if you mow before the foliage dies back naturally, the bulbs will make a poor showing the following year. Therefore, out of the way areas are best for naturalizing bulbs.

Choose an area with good drainage and full sun where the bulbs can remain undisturbed from year to year. Planting is easiest with a long-handled bulb planting tool. The hardest thing about naturalizing bulbs is keeping it random. Remember: Nature doesn’t know about rows and patterns. For this reason, it normally helps to toss your bulbs in the designated area, planting them wherever they land.

Fertilize the bulbs twice a year: in spring just after the flowers fade and again in fall, about the time you would normally plant new bulbs. Bulb fertilizers are expensive and probably no more effective than a good balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10. Use a pound or two for each 100 square feet and water it in. Failure to fertilize will result in a declining number of bulbs.

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