From the Desk of Ed Hume: Spring Bulbs

September 27, 2010 at 1:42 PM Leave a comment

It’s bulb time! Bulbs are arriving almost daily at nurseries, garden centers, and plant departments.  Have you noticed all the new varieties of tulips, daffodils and the other Spring-flowering bulbs? Most stores are featuring a wonderful selection of top quality Spring bulbs.

Although most of these bulbs do not flower until mid-Spring (which is almost six months away), they need be planted this Fall.  There are a couple of benefits to selecting and planting the bulbs early.  First, you get the best selection of varieties before they have been picked-over.  Second, the bulbs are fresh and of the highest quality.  Third, by planting bulbs early, you have a better chance of good planting weather.

Planting bulbs is easy! All you have to do is dig a hole, set the bulb in upright, and cover it over with soil.  Well, it may not be quite that easy.   If your soil is only mediocre, you may need to add some form of organic humus.  Compost, processed manure (the bagged stuff), well-rotted manure or peat are a few of the possible forms of organic humus one could use.

How deep do you plant the bulbs?  Large size bulbs like daffodils and hyacinths and some tulips are planted about 5 or 6 inches deep.   Small bulbs like crocus, grape hyacinths, and species tulip you only plant 3 or 4 inches deep, and some of the tiny bulbs only 1 or 2 inches deep.   Remember to plant them so the pointed end of the bulb is up.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Except for the fact that some bulbs, like ranunculus, do not have a pointed end and the pointed ends of an anemone are actually planted downward.  So be certain to look at the printed planting directions on the bulb package.

As you plant the bulbs, you may want to add some bulb fertilizer, mixing it into the soil below the bulbs.  Remember this is the only time you’ll have an opportunity to get fertilizer down into the root zone of the bulbs, so this feeding it rather important.

One other important step in planting bulbs is to pay attention to their ultimate growing height.   For example, there are some varieties of tulips that only grow 4 to 6 inches high, while others can range anywhere from 6 inches to 36 inches high.  So one needs to know whether they are low growing and used as border bulbs or tall background varieties.

After you have planted your bulbs, you can set out winter pansies to cover the bare soil and provide some garden color until the bulbs begin to grow in the late Winter.  As a bonus, the pansies come into full flower about the same time as most bulbs (in the springtime).

Just remember: if you want to enjoy the beauty of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and the other Spring bulbs, they need to be planted this Fall.


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Ed’s Podcasts: Seeding and Dividing Perennials and Biennials Clip of the Week: Spring-Flowering Bulbs

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