Early spring bulbs look fantastic naturalized in grassy areas, but as pretty as they are, this planting method isn’t for everyone. The main drawback is that you have to delay mowing the lawn in spring, and the grass may begin to look a bit ragged before it’s safe to mow. Here are some things to consider before mowing bulbs in the lawn.
When to Mow Naturalized Bulbs
You have to wait until the foliage dies back naturally before mowing bulbs in the lawn. This allows the bulb to re-absorb the nutrients in the foliage and use the energy for next year’s blooms. Without these nutrients, bulbs make a poor showing the following year and over time they die out.
Small bulbs that bloom in early spring may die back before the time for the first mowing. These include snowdrops, crocuses, and squill. Tulips and daffodils may take several weeks to die back. It’s safe to mow when the leaves turn yellow or brown and lie limp on the ground. In most cases, the leaves lift off with no resistance.
How to Mow Flowering Bulbs
Consider the health of the lawn grass as well as the health of the bulb when mowing bulbs in lawn areas. If you’ve had to let the grass grow a little taller than usual, cut it back to its normal height gradually. Never remove more than one-third of the length of the blade in one mowing. If necessary, mow two or three times a week until you get the lawn back to its suggested height, and then resume a normal mowing schedule.
If you have an uncontrollable itch to mow flowering bulbs in your grass before they fade back completely, try an alternative planting site. Early spring bulbs flower before many ornamental trees leaf out. Once the foliage fills in, the shade helps disguise the fading foliage, and grass grown in shade is normally maintained at a taller height than that grown in the sun. Planting under the branches of a small, ornamental tree is a good compromise for many gardeners. In areas shaded in early spring, you can use woodland bulbs that tolerate shade like:
If you can’t delay the mowing maintenance of bulbs in the lawn, try planting them in out-of-the-way grassy areas. Brightly colored bulbs show up better than grass at a distance, so you don’t have to be close to enjoy them.