How to Plant a Lot of Crocuses

– Posted in: How-to

For years now, we’ve enjoyed the crocus display along one side of our driveway. This spring I decided it should be even bigger, and over the last two days I planted a hundred more, bringing the total to over nine hundred. The “soil” is compacted clay, making the corms somewhat difficult to plant, but, happily, also difficult for the voles to get at. Thought I’d show you how I do it:

The Crocus Bank chronicles my problem driveway bank and provides all the details as to what varieties I planted to solve this design challenge. I started planting in 1994, and developed my method of planting lots of small bulbs in compacted soil through trial and error. I didn’t want to dig up the slope because it would create erosion problems, but I did need to streamline the process as much as I could.

You can’t be too rich, too thin, or have too many crocus.

What do you plant en masse in your own garden?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Diana October 26, 2009, 2:33 pm

So, why don’t you pop on back down to Austin and plant my daffodils for me? Looks like you’ve got it down pat! Love the video. Now if only it would get me off my *&#@ and make me start digging!
.-= Diana´s last blog ..Birds of a feather … =-.

Benjamin October 24, 2009, 8:27 pm

I’ve just planted about, oh, 400-500 crocus. And like you, bad hard clay. But 3.5″ of rain helped. I used the shovel and threw it back and forth till I had a slit, and pushed in 3-6 bulbs. No easy answer, but my thumb sure hurts now! Do you find crocus still spread in your clay???

Kathy Purdy October 24, 2009, 9:16 pm

I don’t know if they seed themselves, but the bunches sure get bigger. Every place where you see a clump of flowers, there was a single bloom the first year.

greg draiss October 24, 2009, 1:42 pm

You cannot replicate the randomness of of just tossing crocus or daffs and planting where the lay by plotting it out on paper. When done on paper the flowers always, always expose your plot in the end.
.-= greg draiss´s last blog ..A Superb Composter ON WHEELS Even! =-.

SC Gardener October 24, 2009, 5:38 am

I’m impressed. What a gorgeous sweep of crocus, and achieved with such determination. I’m in the process of bulk planting Ipheions – starflowers – which in this area will be the one time I’ll need to put them in myself. After that they’ll start spreading like crazy on their own.

I used to plant MASSES (ie thousands) of bulbs every fall in a garden I worked in, much of it in horrible clay. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs have a planter, called a Bulb Planter for Unprepared Soil (nice and straightforward) that made my life much easier. Saved my back I’m pretty sure. It’s sold out right now, but you might think about one before next bulb season. Don’t bother with their giant tubular bulb planter IMO.

The tool works much like your method, but with a heavy iron bar to go into the soil, propelled by your full body weight. Much easier.

(not connected with B&BB in anyway, other than I was for a while an appreciative bulk customer,)
.-= SC Gardener´s last blog ..MSU Extension Faces Closure =-.

Kathy Purdy October 24, 2009, 12:36 pm

I do have such a tool, which I use for mass planting of narcissus, when digging a trench and throwing them in is not appropriate. I saw it for sale at both White Flower Farm and Brent and Becky’s, but wound up buying it from A.M. Leonard (I think). It wasn’t specifically for bulb planting, but for planting tree seedlings quickly for reforestation projects. I can’t find it at A. M. Leonard now, though.

Country Gardener October 23, 2009, 8:34 pm

Oh, I’m envious. The dreadful chipmunk colony here has stolen all my crocuses, and there seems to be little point to replanting. I wonder if chipmunks can get H1N1. Now there’s an idea…
.-= Country Gardener´s last blog ..Visting The High Line in New York City =-.

Kathy Purdy October 23, 2009, 9:19 pm

Voles get my crocuses in the garden beds, but they usually leave the crocus in the compacted driveway slope alone. Some say the C. tommasinianus cultivars are more rodent resistant. Have you tried them?

Cool Garden Things October 23, 2009, 2:38 pm

Wow! Now I totally wish I had planted MORE crocuses! Love the video!
.-= Cool Garden Things´s last blog ..The History of Water Gardens =-.

commonweeder October 23, 2009, 10:23 am

Well, how en masse does en masse have to be? I’ve planted lots of daffodils. I planted them in a poor spot from a design point of view, and I’ve been slowly moving them. I’ve planted snowdrops and scillas that have spread and they are pretty en masse. And of course there is the Famous Rose Walk and its additional paths. 70+ roses must be a masse even if not a solid block. I had a friend who tried to get his neighbors to plant masses of crocus in their front lawns so the Main Street would be a masse of spring color. They all did plant a lot of crocus, but that first spring there were floods, which killed most of the crocus. No further attempts were made. Alas.
.-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Compost – Cold and Hot =-.

Kathy Purdy October 23, 2009, 8:07 pm

Sounds like you’ve got en masse down pat. How disappointing to have that flood ruin the crocus display! I’m sure your friend’s neighbors decided that crocus just don’t do well for them. That would have been one heck of a neighborhood walk come spring.

eliz October 22, 2009, 10:58 pm

You almost inspire me to plant crocus, the only bulb I do not plant!

Shirley Bovshow October 22, 2009, 6:01 pm

Great slideshow Kathy. I enjoyed it. I will email you.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter October 22, 2009, 4:24 pm

I need a dibble! I’ve been waiting for the Snowdrops & Scilla to spread themselves. I should give them a helping hand. Your Crocus bank is just stunning.
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..I’m Hijacking This Post to Cuba =-.

Kathy Purdy October 22, 2009, 6:02 pm

The Rumford Gardener Dibble(affiliate link) looks like mine except the handle is green and mine is red.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens October 22, 2009, 2:52 pm

I’ve also used a spade bit on an electric drill, the 1″ size, to quickly drill holes to plant a lot of crocuses in the lawn. It works pretty well. I drill about 10 holes, drop in the corms, cover over with some top soil and go on to the next area. Once I get going, I can go fairly quickly.
.-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..An Appointment with Dr. Plantabulb =-.

Cindy, MCOK October 22, 2009, 1:23 pm

Kathy, I like your method of measuring the spacing. I need to remember that for future plantings, albeit not of crocus. They won’t grow here, sadly so I enjoy your pictures all the more.

Kylee from Our Little Acre October 22, 2009, 11:02 am

Great job, Kathy! Makes me want to plant more. We have compacted clay too and I’ve thought about just skimming the sod back and planting them then laying it back on top. What do you think?
.-= Kylee from Our Little Acre´s last blog ..Adopt a Skunk? =-.

Kathy Purdy October 22, 2009, 11:08 am

I think if you have decent sod that would work well. Just remember that you can’t mow that area in the spring until after the crocus foliage dies down, otherwise the corms can’t build up for the following year and they will eventually peter out.

Kylee from Our Little Acre October 22, 2009, 11:36 am

We do have great sod. I planted the early varieties in grass near an oak tree a few years ago. I planted each of those individually. I love how they look in the spring. Yes, we wait to mow until they foliage dies down.

Joseph Tychonievich October 22, 2009, 8:44 am

I plant a lot of crocus too… When I bought my house last year, the FIRST thing I did when I closed on it, before I even went inside, was plant a couple hunderd crocuses. Because, what is spring without crocus?
My other favorite to mass is Scilla siberica — the blue is so intense, and they naturalize so well in grass. I planted a couple hundred this fall — should have done more!
.-= Joseph Tychonievich´s last blog .."Bathe" in forest air =-.

Dee/reddirtramblings October 22, 2009, 8:10 am

Great slideshow with music Kathy and wonderful information. I guess if I plant anything en masse it would be narcissus. I also plant quite a bit of crocus, but not as many as you do.~~Dee
.-= Dee/reddirtramblings´s last blog ..Autumn’s not so understated beauty =-.

Kathy Purdy October 22, 2009, 11:09 am

I also have massed daffodils. Most of those have come from digging up and dividing bulbs that were already here.

patty craft October 22, 2009, 7:59 am

Oh, Kathy, you inspire me! I’ve got about 50 crocus bulbs to plant and keep putting it off. Carpe diem … or as those Nike folks say, I’ve got to Just Do It.

peace & love