Beginners Guide: Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

Melinda Beginners Guide: Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

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Cooler temperatures signal fall is on the way and soon it will be time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Late September until the ground freezes is the time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring flowering bulbs for a colorful end to winter. Here are a few tips to help you get the best results from your bulbs:
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Shop early for the greatest selection, but wait until the average nighttime temperatures reach and stay between 40 and 50 degrees to begin planting. Store your early purchases in a cool dark location until it is time to plant them in the garden.

Extend your enjoyment from early spring through early summer by including a variety of bulbs. Early bloomers like snowdrops, winter aconites and crocus are the first to appear in spring.  Add early, mid, or late spring blooming tulips along with early and mid spring flowering daffodils for a continuous display of color. Check the package for bloom times to help with planning.

Boost the color in your spring garden by combining several different bulbs in the same location.  Daffodils and grape hyacinths make a great combination. These bulbs are equally assertive and certain varieties bloom at the same time. Add a bit of fragrance to the garden and spring bouquets by combining tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

Plan ahead to manage the fading leaves of your spring flowering bulbs. Their leaves must be left intact until they yellow or for at least 6 to 8 weeks after they finish flowering. These leaves produce the energy needed for next year’s floral display.

Use other plants to mask the fading bulb leaves. Plant your spring flowering bulbs among winter hardy pansies this fall. The pansies add color to both your fall and spring gardens. Plant other bulbs among perennials. Early spring flowering perennials double your pleasure while later bloomers extend the flowering season, and both help hide fading bulb foliage.

Don’t let hungry animals stop you from brightening your spring with these bulbs. Include animal resistant bulbs like hyacinths, grape hyacinths, daffodils, fritillarias, and alliums. 

And don’t give up on tulips, lilies, and crocus. Physical barriers like chicken wire and animal repellents labeled for this use can help protect the bulbs favored by animals.

Once you select your bulbs, get busy preparing the planting location. Work compost, peat moss, or other organic matter into the top twelve inches of soil. This helps improve drainage, a key to successfully growing bulbs. Add a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer at planting to get your bulbs off to a good start.

Plant the bulbs two to three times their vertical height deep and at least two to three times their diameter apart. Try grouping at least six to nine larger bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, and 15 to 20 smaller bulbs, like grape hyacinths and crocus, together for greater impact. Cover the bulbs with soil and water thoroughly.

Continue watering bulb plantings thoroughly throughout the fall whenever the soil is dry. This is when the bulbs are busy growing roots and need sufficient moisture to become established.

Then take a break over winter while waiting for the snow to recede and bulbs to appear. But for now, it’s time to get busy planting. You’ll be glad you did when those first flowers appear next spring.

Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Beginner Gardeners' Guide with you!