What a bulb? It’s a little self-contained plant world. The whole life cycle of the plant, along with energy and nutrients, is stored within this underground structure called a bulb. Everything that the plant is or will be is inside, including leaves, flower stem, and sometimes even flower buds. Bulbs are living things. They should be treated with care, planted at the appropriate time, and should not become dried out or they won’t produce flowers.
Now is the time! Mid-September to Mid-October is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs in our area. Up north (zone 3) they should start a little earlier. Mid-October is the time to plant garlic, too – YUM! Be sure to mulch over garlic with straw or marsh hay for extra winter protection and best result in spring.
Bulbs are either “major” or “minor,” and the difference is pretty much in size. Also, minor bulbs tend to be hardier and more likely to naturalize and spread.
Major bulbs include tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Late blooming tulips and hyacinth will only last a year or two and will need to be replaced. Daffodils are very hardy and will multiply and naturalize.
Minor bulbs include Gallanthus, Scilla, Grape Hyacinth, Crocus, and Muscari. These bulbs are smaller in size and produce smaller flowers. They are very hardy, will naturalize an area, and look best planted in mass.
How to plant bulbs
Site. Plant bulbs where they will get full sun in early spring. It’s OK if it’s shady later in the season, such as in an area with deciduous trees, so long as it’s sunny early on. Bulbs prefer rich, well-drained soil. Work in compost and leaf mulch before planting for best results.
Plan. Bulb blooms look best in naturally scattered clumps or in mass plantings. Plant bulbs in groups throughout a perennial bed. Plant different colors and varieties together. Plant smaller bulbs over larger ones for a heavier blooming effect. Be creative and have fun!
Dig a hole. Use a trowel or bulb planter and dig 2-3 times as deep as the bulb is tall. Or, dig a wide hole to hold several bulbs. Be sure to read the directions on the package, though, since some bulbs may require a different depth.
Drop the bulb. Teardrop-shaped bulbs should be planted tip-side up, flat bulbs should be planted flat side up. Look for roots – if there are any, plant them facing down. If it’s hard to tell which way is up just plant the bulb sideways, the plant will figure it out and get growing in the right direction.
Dust and douse. Spread bone meal or bulb booster over the newly planted area and water in. This helps root development and overall plant strength. Soak well, and keep watering if the weather is dry.
Cover and protect. Rodents love bulbs, for them it’s tasty food. Cover the planting with chicken wire secured by sod staples to deter these little diggers. As an added deterrent, spray bulbs with a repellent, let them dry out, then plant.
Tips and tricks
Try to plant daffodils by the end of September (or early as possible in October) for best results. They do best with a little extra time to grow roots.
Leave the leaves until they have withered and turned yellow. This allows the bulb to gather energy to bloom again the next year.
Mark your bulb plantings now so you don’t accidentally dig them up during summer and fall garden work.
Muscari and Grape Hyacinth send up leaves in spring and fall, so it’s easier to identify where these bulbs are planted.
In Spring, protect bulbs from large varmints – a.k.a. deer and bunnies – who think the flowers are tasty food, by using fencing or repellents.
After all your hard work, enjoy the view! Bulbs put on a spectacular color show.