Ornithogalum umbellatum

Bulbs for naturalising

Go wild for our pick of the best bulbs for naturalising in grass and under shrubs or trees.

Drifts of naturalised bulbs are a fabulous source of colour in the garden and they’re low maintenance, too.

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The ideal time to plant your bulbs is autumn. As a rule of thumb, plant them at three times their depth. To get a natural look, scatter the bulbs over the planting site and plant them where they fall. If happy, the bulbs will gradually spread to form pretty colonies.

By growing a mix of bulbs that flower at different times, you’re guaranteed blooms for much of the year. They’re also particularly useful in areas that are difficult to plant, such as steep banks, or large areas of otherwise uninteresting grass.

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Discover our pick of the best bulbs for naturalising, below.


Tulipa orphanidea 

Tulipa orphanidea 'Flava'
Tulipa orphanidea ‘Flava’

This delicate-looking species tulip has fiery red-orange flowers with petals that taper to a point, giving each flower a crowned appearance. Flowering in April and May, Tulipa orphanidea enjoys a sunny spot in well-drained soil. Ideal for naturalising in short grass. Tulipa sylvestris is a similar, yellow-flowered species well worth considering.

Height x spread: 20cm x 15cm.


Scilla siberica

Scilla siberica 'Spring Beauty'
Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’

A native of Russia and the Caucasus, Scilla siberica is a tough, vigorous bulb with cornflower-blue flowers in early spring. It’s easy to naturalise in lawns or under deciduous trees and shrubs. Daffodils make lovely planting partners.

H x S: 20cm x 5cm.


Nectaroscordum siculum

Sicilian honey garlic (Nectaroscordum siculum)
Nectaroscordum siculum

Sicilian honey garlic (Nectaroscordum siculum) puts on an elegant display as it flowers in late spring and early summer. Great for full or partial shade, it’ll gradually spread by self-seeding. Bumblebees love the flowers.

H x S: 1m x 10cm.


Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris
Fritillaria meleagris

If you have areas of moisture-retentive soil, snake’s head fritillaries with their spotted, nodding blooms are a lovely choice. Flowering in April and May, it needs a soil that will remain moist all year, in full sun or partial shade. A white-flowered variety, Fritillaria meleagris var. unicolor subvar. alba associates well with the purple-flowered type.

H x S: 30cm x 5cm.


Crocuses

Drifts of Crocus tommasinianus
Drifts of Crocus tommasinianus

Lots of crocuses are suitable for naturalising, from spring-flowering Crocus tommasinianus and Crocus sieberi to autumn-flowering Crocus speciosus. Ideal for naturalising in a sunny lawn or under deciduous trees and shrubs, where they’ll gradually form glorious carpets of colour.

H x S: 10cm x 5cm.


Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus
Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

A Mediterranean native, Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus lights up the garden in May, as the intense, fuchsia-coloured blooms open. Grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.

H x S: 1m x 1m.


Daffodils

Naturalised daffodils in Kew Gardens
Naturalised daffodils in Kew Gardens

Like crocuses, there are lots of daffodils that will easily naturalise, including species narcissi like Narcissus obvallaris and Narcissus pseudonarcissus, and cultivars like ‘Elka’ and ‘Actaea’. Spectacular in grass and under trees.

H x S: varies depending on the type.


Camassia leichtlinii 

Camassia leichtlinii subsp. suksdorfii 'Maybelle'
Camassia leichtlinii subsp. suksdorfii ‘Maybelle’

For areas of longer grass, camassias are a striking option, with starry, intense purple-blue flowers that open in May and June. These long-lived bulbs enjoy growing in moist, heavy soils in full sun or partial shade. Try naturalising them with meadow buttercups and ragged robin.

H x S: varies depending on the type.


Snowdrops

Galanthus 'S. Arnott'
Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’

Exceptionally tough, snowdrops were made for naturalising. The cheerful blooms are often the first to emerge each year. There are lots of beautiful cultivars and species to choose from, such as the giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii. You can also naturalise snowflakes, Leucojum aestivum and Leucojum vernum.

H x S: varies depending on the type.


Cyclamens

Cyclamen coum growing with snowdrops
Cyclamen coum growing with snowdrops

By growing both Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium, you’re guaranteed glorious carpets of colour in spring and autumn. Both enjoy growing in humus-rich soil in partial shade.

H x S: 8cm x 10cm.


 Muscari armeniacum

Muscari
Muscari armeniacum ground cover

Seen here carpeting the ground beneath a forsythia, muscari are vigorous spring-flowering bulbs with nectar-rich flowers that are popular with pollinating insects. Other muscari species suitable for naturalising include Muscari azureum and Muscari pallens.

H x S: 20cm x 8cm.


Ornithogalum umbellatum

Ornithogalum umbellatum
Ornithogalum umbellatum

Known as the common or garden star-of-Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum is a charming bulb producing clusters of white flowers in June. Easy to grow in full sun or partial shade, in well-drained soil.

H x S: 30cm x 10cm.

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More beautiful bulbs for naturalising