Bulbs are a simple solution for early and mid-spring color. “Nothing signals the end of winter more than bulbs popping out of the ground in spring”, says Cristin. Joannie and Cristin, our Bulb Experts at each location, offer advice for planting success. Be sure to pick out your bulbs now while you have the best selection, then plant them in October once temperatures have cooled off.
1. 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 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, daffodil bulbs are planted 6” below the surface, so dig down 8” to mix in the amendments, then plant.
2. 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.
3. If your garden tends to be on the damp side, try planting naturalizing bulbs, such as Galanthus, Puschkinia, and Camassia.
4. Right after planting, water your bulbs once then forget about them! “They really are low maintenance,” says Cristin.
5. 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.”
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®.
Planting bulbs near other perennials provides camouflage as the bulb foliage vanishes naturally to restore the bulb energy. Joannie suggests planting bulbs for sun near ornamental perennial grasses and Daylilies. Bleeding Hearts and Hosta 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.”
After several years, bulbs may produce more leaves than flowers. This is a sign to divide your bulbs. Once the foliage starts to fade after flowering, dig some of the bulbs up and replant right away in a new location. Cristin adds “Bulbs are a great way to add early blooms to the garden and attract early pollinators,” so spread them through your garden beds and enjoy!