From the Desk of Ed Hume: Time to Think About Bulbs

February 20, 2012 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

Some of the late winter and early spring bulbs are beginning to grow, and miniature crocuses are already flowering. There are a few things you can be doing soon to keep your garden bulbs in tiptop shape. In addition, it is time to think about choosing some summer flowering varieties.

When the leaves of the spring tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are 2 to 4 inches high, it’s time to feed the bulbs. For this job you can use a liquid fertilizer. Mix it according to the label directions and simply spray or sprinkle it on the leaves. I use a sprinkling can. Of course, a certain amount of liquid fertilizer will drop to the ground, but hopefully the leaves will absorb most of it. This application method will ensure that the fertilizer moves through the leaves, down the stem, and directly to the bulb, thus revitalizing the bulb for next year. The same fertilizing process (liquid leaf feeding) should be repeated immediately after the bulbs have finished blooming.

A Dutch research team determined that daffodils and tulip leaves can be cut to the ground three weeks after they have finished flowering. No further leaf growth enhances the bulb after 21 days. It is also recommended that spent flowers be cut off as soon as they finish blooming. Otherwise, too much energy from the bulb is wasted on seed production. However, if you have bulbs planted in an area that you want to use for something else, you should mark the spot while the plants are still visible. That way you’ll know exactly where the bulbs are located, and at the end of the season they can be dug up and moved to their new location.

If you didn’t plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, or any of the other spring flowering bulbs last fall, you’ll probably find them for sale at many nurseries and garden centers. The bulbs are usually individually potted in small pots and can be safely transplanted into the garden.

The bulbs of anemones and ranunculus are generally planted in the fall, but if they’re available they can also be planted now, and should bloom late this spring.

In a few weeks you will find bulbs, corms, and tubers of colorful summer bulbs (such as gladiolas, dahlias, cannas, and crocosmia). All of these merit a spot in the garden, so you might want to consider which ones you like, and where you might plant them. Most of the bulbs mentioned are perennial, and when planted and cared for properly will come back and bloom year after year, bringing color and life to your early spring garden.


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