Spring bulbs add color to dormant warm-season turf

Crocus Crysanthus cv. ‘Cream Beauty’ flowering in a dormant buffalograss lawn.

Warm-season turfgrasses in the Transition Zone can go dormant for up to six months of the year. Early-spring bulbs add color to dormant lawns, yet their persistence in the turfgrass environment largely is unknown. In addition to aesthetics, flowering bulbs might also provide early-season forage for honeybees and other pollinators. The objectives of this study were to investigate early-spring bulbs in warm-season turfgrasses to gauge their flowering and persistence and evaluate whether these bulbs can also provide early-season forage and habitat for pollinators.

We chose bulbs based on their established flower heights (less than 6 inches) and their ability to flower prior to mowing warm-season lawns. Thirty species and/or cultivars of flowering bulbs were planted in November of 2015 in Fayetteville, Ark. We established bulbs in both bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon cv. Riviera)- and buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides cv. Cody)-simulated lawns mowed at 3 inches. We established each bulb entry with 25 bulbs per plot and evaluated performance over the spring flowering periods of 2016 and 2017.

Bulbs bloomed from mid-January through May in both years of the trial. Bulbs that performed well over the two years included entries of daffodil (Narcissus spp.), Crocus (photo) and grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.). Blooming and persistence was slightly better in the buffalograss lawn, presumably because of more competition in the bermudagrass turf. Best early-season pollinator sources included entries of grape hyacinth and Crocus. These results demonstrate that several early-spring bulbs can provide color to dormant warm-season turf and food resources for early-season pollinators.

Michelle Wisdom and Mike Richardson, Ph.D., are at the University of Arkansas. You may reach Mike Richardson at mricha@uark.edu for more information.

Photo by: Mike Richardson, Ph.D.

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