Flowers from hardy bulbs are welcomed harbingers of spring, often sprouting through late winter snow. But I am getting ahead of myself. Beautiful spring, summer and autumn flowers from bulbs are the result of planning and planting in the fall. And what a magnificent variety of types and colors are available at The Growing Place. Simply follow these instructions for easy, goof-proof and colorful results.
When and Where to Plant Bulbs
With nighttime temperatures now dipping to the 40’s and 50’s, this is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. The bulb itself is a food storage unit surrounding a flower bud that evolved to survive harsh climate conditions. They actually need a cool period to activate their growth and can be successfully planted until the ground freezes.
Chose a site that is well-drained. Though there are a few exceptions most bulbs don’t like ‘wet feet’. Heavy soils can be improved by mixing into the existing soil 3”-4” of a variety of organic materials such as Growing Place Garden Mix, mushroom or garden compost. Spring flowering bulbs prefer full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.
How to Plant
As a general rule, plant bulbs at a depth three times their height and two to three bulb widths apart. Plant bulbs point up, flat side down. If in doubt, plant the bulb on its side. Use a bulb planter tool to make individual holes, or dig out the entire area to be planted. Fertilizing encourages bloom production and increases longevity. Mix a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as Espoma Bulb-tone into the soil when planting. Ideally, fertilize bulbs in the spring when foliage begins to emerge and again in the fall to help bulbs build strength to promote spring flowering. Water thoroughly after planting to encourage bulb growth, and throughout the fall until the ground freezes.
Bulbs offer more flower power when planted in groups. Avoid planting lone bulbs or single lines. You can make even modest numbers of bulbs look great by planting them in small clusters. Take into account plant height, flower timing and color when planning your bulb display. For example consider planting varieties with contrasting colors and textures that bloom at the same time; tall Daffodils in the back and short Grape Hyacinth in front. Or perhaps try staggering and extending bloom time by planting mid- and late-season bloomers together, creating a spring display that blooms in succession and brightens your garden for the entire spring. Here’s a helpful hint: add a few Grape Hyacinth bulbs which sprout fine leaves in the fall to your bulb plantings to remind you of their location.
Spring bulbs can be planted in large ‘drifts’ to naturalize a site. Or consider planting bulbs in turf. Nothing says, “spring is just around the corner,” better than clusters of Crocus or Glory of the Snow poking their flowers out of the grass.
Consider planting enough bulbs to provide you with flowers for cutting. Bring the outdoor in all spring and summer by creating bouquets from varieties of Daffodils, Tulips and Allium that flower in succession.
Hungry deer and rodents can eat their way through an entire bulb bed of tulips (except Tulip Persian Pearl) and Crocus, but there are many bulbs critters don’t like, and Daffodils top the list. Plants in the Amaryllis family, which includes Daffodils, Snowflakes and Snowdrops, are truly deer and rodent proof. They contain a bitter, poisonous substance called lycorine that no mammal will eat. Other bulbs that deer and rodents avoid unless very hungry include: Allium, Fritillaria, Hyacinth, Glory of Snow, Winter Aconite, Spanish Bluebells, Scillia, and Camassia. There are protective measures you can try which are intended to exclude and deter critters that include surrounding bulbs with chicken wire cages, or applying homemade or commercial animal repellant preparations.
Post Flower Care
After blooms fade, clip flower heads to channel energy back into the bulb. The leaves need to be left to wither, allowing photosynthesis to recharge the bulb, and then cut back to the ground. You may want to plant companion plants such as Daylilies or Hosta to hide bulb foliage as it fades.
With just a few hours of your time on a brisk fall day you can create a kaleidoscope of color in your house and garden next spring and summer.
Posted on 10/9/2014 at 2:15:00 PM