The weather is certainly getting cooler, but there are still some nice days to get out into the garden and now is the time to plant spring bulbs!
Here are some general guidelines for planting bulbs.
- Bulbs don’t typically like heavy soil. If you are dealing with clay, definitely amend with compost or peat to loosen the soil and improve the drainage.
- Bulbs should be planted at a depth of 2-3 times their height. For example, from base to top Crocus corms are about 1″ tall and should be planted 3″ deep. Daffodils are 2-3″ tall and should be planted about 6″ deep.
- Bulb-tone is a great fertilizer that has all of the nutrients that bulbs need to look amazing. Apply at planting time according to label directions.
- Bulbs should be watered in after planting to settle the soil, don’t compact the soil using your hands, feet, shovel etc! Bulbs like a loose soil and compacted soil can impede their growth in spring.
- In general bulbs are frost tolerant when they emerge in spring, you shouldn’t need to protect them unless we are going to have a hard freeze.
- After blooming, leave the foliage to grow until it turns yellow and the bulbs start to go dormant. The bulbs need energy for the next season, and the foliage produces important nutrients and carbohydrates that the bulb stores until the next year.
There are a number of handy tools for planting bulbs that can make your job a whole lot easier as well. My favorite is the Protech 24″ bulb planter drill bit. It’s a 2 3/4″ auger bit that works on corded or cordless drills that is great for planting large single bulbs or 2-3 smaller bulbs very quickly.
We also carry a great trowel/transplanter made by Green Thumb. It has a narrow blade with inch and centimeter markings and is serrated on one side. It works great for planting bulbs and perennials. It’s sturdy cast aluminum with a rubberized handle and has a 5 year warranty.
And what about the bulbs themselves? What should you plant? Besides the myriad of Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, & Crocuses in a wide range of colors we have a number of lesser known bulbs.
One of my favorite bulbs is Surprise Lily or Resurrection Lily, Lycoris squamigera. This amazing bulb sends up long strap-like foliage in spring just like the other bulbs. The foliage lasts through the spring and goes dormant just like daffodils or tulips, but the bulb doesn’t send up a flower. In August after you’ve completely forgotten you ever planted anything, a leafless stalk emerges with 3-7 pink lily-like flowers.
There are a number of great ornamental onion plants (or Allium), many are familiar with the giant globe onions like ‘Globemaster’ or ‘Gladiator’, but there are some great small varieties as well.
Blue onion, Allium azureum, is a great azure blue flowered species that reaches about 22″ tall. This is one of the most striking onions due to its flower color. It is however a notorious self-seeder, but it pulls easily. It is also great for naturalizing in a wildflower garden.
Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, are one of the first bulbs to bloom. They have small, white, nodding flowers that often emerge in March and April when there is still snow on the ground.
Nearly everybody is familiar with tulips, but there are some smaller tulips that look little like the flower you’ve seen in gardens. Tulip ‘Lilac Wonder’ is a great species tulip that makes a great addition to rock gardens and the front of flower borders. Mine usually top out at 6-8″.
This is just a small sampling of the amazing diversity of spring bulbs. We have lots of other great bulbs still in stock and waiting to go in your garden, be sure to stop by and have a look!