There’s still time to plant your spring-blooming bulbs

November 8, 2018

If you haven’t taken the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs yet this fall, it’s not too late. Many local garden centers will continue to sell bulbs for planting until they run out of stock.

Bulbs can be planted until the ground is frozen, though September, October and early November planting is best, because it gives the bulbs plenty of time to grow roots before cold winter temperatures settle in.

Spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths, crocus, bluebells and dozens of others, offer a bright, beautiful splash of color in the spring, at a time when gardeners like us can really use the pick-me-up after a long, cold winter.

Thankfully, planting bulbs is an easy task. Plus, bulbs are relatively inexpensive and many types are perennializing, meaning they come back bigger and better with each passing season.

An exception to the perennializing rule are the tulips. Most types of tulips are meant primarily for one or two year’s bloom. Then, they slowly decline and often produce just leaves and no flowers.

If you want perennializing tulips that do return each season, plant Greigii-type tulips, Darwin hybrids or species tulips. High quality bulb catalogs and suppliers will note which type each tulip variety is, so you can be sure you’re selecting tulips from the right categories if you’d like them to return to the garden for many years.

Tips for planting

Here are some tips for planting bulbs in your garden to help make the job easier.

• While it’s often recommended that gardeners include bonemeal in the planting hole, this isn’t necessary unless you take a soil test and it indicates the need for phosphorous. Plus, the inclusion of bonemeal in the planting holes may stimulate your dog to dig up the newly planted bulbs in search of a buried bone.

• As a general rule of thumb, the proper planting depth of each bulb is equal to about two and a half times the height of a bulb. So, if your tulip bulb is two inches tall, plant it so the bottom of the bulb is about five inches deep.

• Always try to plant bulbs with the correct polarity. Many bulbs have a pointed end where the leaves and flowers will emerge. The opposite end of the bulb will have a round disc where the roots grow from. With these bulbs, it’s easy to tell which end goes up and which goes down, but for some spring-blooming bulbs, it’s more of a challenge.

Anemones, for example, have bulbs that look like little, lumpy rocks. For these types of bulbs where it’s difficult to discern up from down, put the bulb on its side in the bottom of the planting hole. As the roots and shoots emerge, they’ll find their way to the proper direction.

• While mulching after planting bulbs isn’t necessary, it does help to insulate the newly planted bulbs. Cover the planting area with one to two inches of shredded leaves or bark mulch soon after planting.

• Plant bulbs in clumps, rather than in a soliders-in-a-row formation. For a more naturalized effect, either place several bulbs together into the same planting hole, or gently toss the bulbs out into the garden and then plant them wherever they happen to land.

• Many spring-blooming bulbs are prone to rot if they’re planted in poorly drained soils. Avoid planting bulbs in low-lying areas that stay waterlogged through the winter and/or spring.

• If deer are problematic in your garden, focus on planting deer-resistant bulbs like alliums, daffodils, fritillarias and Spanish bluebells.

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