September through October is a great time to plant. Everything from deciduous trees and evergreens to shrubs and perennials get a head start on root growth when planted in the fall. While the hole is dug and the soil is loose, add bulbs in with fall plantings to be rewarded with pops of color throughout your landscape at the first sights of spring.
Bulbs can be planted once nighttime temps drop into the low 50s and up until the ground freezes. These food storage units for flower buds seek sunshine in well-drained soil. They provide the best display when planted in clusters or groups. Choose from a large variety that bloom from late winter to late spring.
As a general rule, plant bulbs at a depth of three times the height of the bulb and 3” apart. Tulips are the exception. They need to be planted 10” deep for best hardiness.
Instead of using a cylindrical tool for planting singular bulbs, our perennial guru Joannie recommends making a ditch or larger hole with a shovel to break up the soil, allowing space for the roots to grow. She even suggests putting bulbs in the same hole dug for the perennials being planted. “Do not plant in a block of clay. They may survive but they will not thrive.” Adding a mix of leaf mulch or Growing Place Garden Compost to the soil when planting bulbs will help amend more clay-like soil.
Bulbs do best in a sun to part shade location with well-drained soil. Loosen the soil, adding in Espoma® Bulb-tone and The Growing Place Choice Garden Compost Mix. You can also use Bone Meal. Digging the hole about 2” deeper than the actual depth needed will provide soft soil under the bulb as well. For example, daffodils are planted 6” below the surface, so dig down 8” to mix in the amendments, then plant.
Plant bulbs point-side up. Not sure which side is up? No worries. Just plant them on their side and the bulb sprouts will work out and upward. A general rule of thumb is to plant the bulb 3 times deeper than the height of the bulb, and about 3 inches apart. Tulips are the only exception to the 3 times deeper rule. Plant Tulips 10” below the surface to help give them a longer life.
If your garden tends to be on the damp side, try planting naturalizing bulbs, such as Galanthus, Puschkinia, and Camassia.
Right after planting, water your bulbs once then forget about them! “They really are low maintenance,” says Cristin.
After the blooms fade in the spring, clip the flower heads to channel energy back into the bulb. Letting the foliage die back naturally also helps to recharge the bulb for next year. “I really adore the softball size June of Allium Christophii,” says Joannie. “And I’ve had success with the giant Allium Globemaster naturalizing by seed when I leave the flower heads in tact over winter.”
Bulbs and Their BFFs
Planting bulbs near other perennials provides camouflage as the bulb foliage vanishes naturally to restore energy. Joannie suggests planting bulbs for sun near ornamental perennial grasses and Daylilies. Plant very early spring bulbs like Crocus and Galanthus with spring-flowering perennials, such as Brunnera, Bleeding Hearts, and Hellebores that will emerge as bulbs planted in shade begin to diminish. Joannie reminds us all that in early spring, foliage on deciduous trees has not leafed out yet. “What you perceive as a shady spot, may well be a sunny spot where early blooming bulbs can be planted.”
Narcissus, or daffodils, have large yellow or white flowers on sturdy stems. Along with grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) and Allium, daffodils are resistant to pests. We recommend planting them all together for varied color, height and texture in the spring garden. Tulip can be planted near these companions as a deterrent to animals from digging them up.
You can plant a variety of bulbs together and you can intersperse them with other perennials, giving color that lasts through the seasons. For example, a few of our fall favorite perennials are ornamental grasses and sedums. When planted near daylilies and perennial geraniums, the fall colors of the grasses and sedums illuminate after the blooms of the daylilies and geraniums are spent. Planting bulbs with these companion plants extends interest in the garden from spring through fall.
Critters find many bulbs irresistible. Mixing Narcissus (Daffodils) in with Tulips helps deter animals because Daffodil bulbs, flowers, and stems produce a numbing effect. Other critter-resistant bulbs include Allium, Scilla, Chionodoxa, Galanthus, Muscari, Fritillaria, Eranthis, Camassia, Colchicum, Crocus, Erythronium, Leucojum, Lycoris, Ornithogalum, and Hyacinth. Be sure to follow label directions if you choose to use repellents such as Plantskydd®.
Short on space? Not a problem! You can grow bulbs in containers, which is much like growing them in the ground. Make sure your container has drainage holes as the bulbs can rot if they stay too wet for too long. Use The Growing Place Potting Mix and Espoma® Bulb-tone for planting spring bulbs in containers. Plant them as deep as you would in the ground and water in well after planting. Want to pack it all in? Layer a variety of spring bulbs to get a range of blooms in one container. Once planted, it’s best to keep your containers in a shed or garage where temperatures are cold but not exposed to the elements. Spring bulbs need a cold cycle period, so bringing them indoors would not be advised. Even a basement can be too warm for the bulbs to develop properly.
Spring Bulb Inspiration
Aurora // September 16, 2023
11am // Free Entry // No Registration Required
Get inspired to create your own spring bulb garden! In this talk we’ll explore creative bulb garden designs and learn essential tips for planting and growing these floral gems for long-lasting and vibrant displays.