Early spring bloomers for buffalo grass lawn

WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Around this time of year I start to think about buying a bunch of
bulbs to plant next month. Since most of the front yard is now buffalo
grass, it'd be nice to have something colorful popping up out of it in
the spring before it starts to green up. I would think an early bulb would have the best chance since it could do
its thing and store up energy for the following year before the buffalo
grass got going.

Seems like most of
the early spring bulbs, though, are exotic -- especially from the area
around the Caucasus Mountains. Ideally I'd like to plant some natives,
but most of the early flowers I know of are either shrubs or woodland
spring ephemerals like Mertensia virginica.

I suppose it's
because tallgrass prairie is too thick and tall to allow early spring
bloomers to get any sun. Out in the areas where they've done spring
burns, I've seen Nothoscordum bivalve, Viola pedata, Castilleja coccinea
and Lithospermum canescens, but these all seem to be available only as
seed that's fairly challenging to germinate and/or establish. I'm not sure any of them would last long in competition with buffalo grass.
Ultimately the natives are what I'd want -- even just a bunch of N. bivalve would suit me
just fine -- but I am thinking I might just go the easier route of
planting exotic bulbs: Iris reticulata, Crocus ancyrensis, Tulipa tarda, or Chionodoxa forbesii for the part shade areas.

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Comments (12)
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edlincoln(6A)

I don't know any bulbs native to your area that are Spring bloomers and AREN'T woodland ephemerals. You could try North American woodland ephemerals like Virginia Bluebells and Canadian wild ginger. Camssia Quamash blooms in late spring. I know some native late summer bulbs that could survive in tall grass...liatris, nodding onion.


Camassia Quanash Sale

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Woods, if you do settle for exotics, I heartily recommend Siberian squill, AKA Scilla siberica (last time I looked, lol). This bulb will do exactly what you want-get going very early, colonize easily, and provide what is still the most heavenly cobalt-blue bloom of any plant I've ever seen. We've got a legacy planting of these in our backyard, and they are simply excellent. Very low-growing plant too, it's grass-like foliage won't mess up the scene any.

+oM

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texasranger2

I use annuals for very early color, they start up in late Feb if its warm but definitely in March.

Gordon's Bladderpod, Rose Verbena, Baby Blue Eyes, Mexican Poppies, Lazy Daisy (Apahnostephus) are all very early. Originally these came from mixed seed packets and have naturalized. Its not the same as crocus, daffs or tulips but its fun to watch and looks like the 'prairie' is waking up and they are all very low growing, around 8". They die back when it gets warmer. The Rose Verbena will bloom periodically all summer but makes a comeback in fall. It seeds modestly.

I use lots of annuals. That way I have abundant blooms from early spring until late fall. I couldn't get through summer without annual gaillardia, helenium annus and desert marigolds.

http://ozarkedgewildflowers.com/spring-wildflowers/rose-verbena-glandularia-canadensis/

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texasranger2

Most of this color is from native annuals, shot during the otherwise dead time in August.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Native false garlic (nothoscordum bivalve), anemone caroliniana, and delphinium carolinianum (taller) naturally occurred in my Oklahoma prairie. Nothoscordum reseeds fast, multiplies fast, and usually also blooms in late autumn as well....get some :)

It should grow quite easily.

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texasranger2

Hey Barron! long time no see. So good to hear your voice.

I just got the new Native American Seed catalog. I want to order a few, one in particular is Yellow Prairie Flax. 6 to 18" tall, bloom Feb-Sept. Its the height and that early date thats drawing me in. The fact that its orange doesn't hurt. Orange seems hard to come by, especially in early spring.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

texasranger2, I do have rose verbena in the hell strip and in the far
back at the top of a stone wall already. I think it's working well in
those two locations. Annuals are an interesting suggestion. I'm not sure
I would want anything with much height in the lawn if it persisted past
June or so. Maybe something like baby blue eyes would work -- sounds like it might disappear after seeding due to heat/humidity.
dbarron,
any suggestions on seeding N. bivalve? When to sow seed? I frost-seeded
some last year in January or so (unsuccessfully), but I am wondering
whether maybe it makes more sense to sow at the same time the seeds
would naturally drop.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Well, I simply moved another plant and got one single nothscordium when I moved from Oklahoma. It reseeded all by itself into a small clump (the seedlings blooming in their second year). So yes, I'd say fresh seed generally best...however, seed DOES get produced naturally in autumn as well. I have little doubt it doesn't also germinate.

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texasranger2

Speaking of annuals for reliable, long lasting color and easy filler, if you want to add some easy and nice touches of color and texture to grasses in a hell strip its hard to beat Indian Blanket cooking in the hot sun out there by the street. They are a new addition to mine and I like the way they look in late afternoon sun with all the fuzzy balls catching the light the same way the grass seeds do. Its easy to pull any unwanted volunteers or yank the whole plant before the seeds shatter. Next year the strip will all have more little bluestem among the flowers since I added several small plants.

In truth I'm mainly interested in showing my state pride because Indian Blanket is Oklahoma's designated state wildflower. (do you believe that?)

Each helianthus annum plant makes neat and tiny bouquet of solid yellow from spring to fall, they don't get very tall in full sun but they really do like to self sow. They add so much color I don't object personally but they along with lazy daisy would definitely turn a buffalo grass lawn into more of a 6 to 8" low growing meadow so that depends on personal taste. They both stay low in height. Interestingly, they are coming up in various spots downhill from my house, some quite some distance away, they love cracks in sidewalks or by curbs in the street. I also saw some suspiciously familiar looking rudbeckia hirta down there too coming up in the crack of a driveway about 9 houses down the hill.




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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

You mean Helenium, right, not Helianthus? Isn't that little yellow one a sneezeweed?

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texasranger2

Sorry, I meant Helenium amarum, not annum. Its considered a weed. I bought three from Farmer's Mkt a few years ago and have had it ever since. I like it, ferny leaves and well behaved, its common name is Bitterweed. Another local weed I like is Dyssodia pentachaeta aka Five-Needle Pricklyleaf. The plants are like tiny bouquets that bloom like crazy.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

A beautiful Texas bulb is Green Lilly (Schoenocaulon texanum). It is subtle in color but very graceful in form and tough as nails. I have a lot of Alium drummundi during moist springs. A nice lavender pink onion. Greek wind flowers are the first to break the spring dormancy down here along with the fringed puccoon. The windflowers might not be natives but they are sure here and welcomed by me. They come up white and turn violet. The Celestials are also a spring bulb that I Like. Nemastylis gemniflora. I tried moving one unsuccessfully. I also Get a few Herbertia lahue ( Prairie Nymphs) Blooming on normal moist winter/springs. They like my clayier areas. These droughts have made them a little shy. The blue eyed grass ( Sisyrinchium pruinosum) is a good early bloomer.

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