Growing Bulbs

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 858 Posts
January 29, 2009

trowel and bulbsPlanting bulbs is relatively straightforward. Dig a hole, drop in a bulb, and cover it with dirt. Well, at least it's almost that easy. To get them off to a good start, follow these bulb-planting tips:


Using the Right Tools

The Trowel: Easily the most popular all around tool with gardeners, a trowel is also a great tool for planting bulbs, especially if you have several types of different bulbs that require different planting depths. Choose a trowel that has depth measurements marked down the length of the blade.

The Bulb Planter: This cylindrical hand-held tool is designed specifically for planting bulbs. Simply push it into the ground and pop out a soil core. Bulb planters come in handy if you're doing a large planting, but they are difficult to use in compacted soils. Most have depth measurements stamped on the side of the cylinder.

The Dibber (also called the dibble): The beauty of the dibber lies in its simplicity. Shaped like a carrot, it's only job is to poke holes in the dirt. A dibber is a great choice for planting small bulbs but can be difficult to use in compacted soils.


When to Plant

Ideally, bulbs should be planted as soon as possible after you purchase them, although some bulbs (tulips, crocus, and narcissus) can be stored in a cool, dry place for a time before planting. In general, planting times are based on bloom times. Spring-blooming bulbs require a period of cold dormancy to bloom and must be planted in the fall. Many summer and fall blooming bulbs can survive cold temperatures and need to be planted in the spring.

Spring and Summer Blooming Bulbs to Plant in the Autumn

Summer Blooming Bulbs to Plant in the Spring

How Deep to Plant

The depth of the hole will vary according to the type of bulb your are planting, so check with your vendor for exact instructions. Generally, larger bulbs (tulips, narcissus, and hyacinth) are planted to a depth of two or three times their height. In sandy soils, they can be planted slightly deeper than the recommended depth. In heavy soils, they can be planted slightly closer to the surface. Small bulbs are generally planted at a depth equal to their own height.

5 Steps to Planting

  1. Prepare the Soil: Whether you're planting bulbs in containers or in beds, most prefer well draining soil. If necessary, amend heavy soils with sand or compost, and toss in a handful of bone meal before planting. Ideally, soil should be prepared at least one week out from planting.
  2. Dig the Hole: Arrange your bulbs on top of the prepared soil to mark the each spot where you want a dig hole. The depth of the hole will depend on the bulb, but it should be at least twice its diameter. The bottom of the hole should be flat and roomy enough so that the bulb does not touch either side of the hole. Try to keep the sides of the hole vertical. Avoid digging your hole in the shape of an ice cream cone.
  3. Place the bulb in the hole: Set the bulb down into the bottom of the hole so it's facing right side up (roots on bottom). Twist it gently so the basil plate of the bulb makes contact with the soil.
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  5. Replace the Soil: Cover the hole with dirt and press it down gently.
  6. Mark the spot: Bulbs leave no above-ground evidence of their planting location, so mark the area with a plant label.

Protecting Your Bulbs from Animals

Cover the ground over your bulbs with chicken wire or hardware cloth after planting. (Use bricks to secure). Make sure to removed the wire after the ground is frozen, or in early spring when stems start to peek through the ground. Sprinkling coarse gravel or non-clumping kitty litter into the planting can also help deter rodents from digging. Avoid using straw to mulch around your bulbs. It's an attractive winter bedding that only encourages rodent activity near your bulbs.

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More Solutions

Share on ThriftyFunThis page contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
February 25, 2015

One year, my mother was given a potted Easter lily. After the blooms were spent and shriveled, she gave me the plant, to do with as I liked.

sprouting onions

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 170 Posts
April 10, 2011

With spring finally here, it's time to get outside and plant some flowers, vegetables and bulbs. I usually forget what I have planted where.


Now I just find a nice sized rock and with a permanent marker I write the name on the rock.

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March 12, 2014

When planting your spring bulbs it's almost impossible to remember exactly where you planted them. Buy a box of straws and stick them in the soil above the bulbs, leave 2" showing above the soil. I planted pink straws with my tulips, yellow straws with my daffodils and so on.

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August 8, 2013

For years, I have used this pencil for measuring the depth to plant small bulbs like these freesias. The tiny ones need to go in 1 inch and the larger ones at 2 inches.

Planting Small Bulbs

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March 14, 2003

If you have different varieties and colors of flowering bulb, make stakes out of old miniblinds and write the color and type on the stake. It is always harder to remember the type and color after they bloom.

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22 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

September 12, 2010

When is the best time to plant bulbs, in September or October?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By debbie johnson from WI


September 18, 20100 found this helpful

Don't plant your spring blooming bulbs until after the the 2nd frost in your area otherwise they might try to bloom in late fall and you could mess up their cycle.

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June 19, 2004

What are your tips for growing and saving money on bulbs? Please post them below.


By Mythi (Guest Post)
June 22, 20070 found this helpful

Trade bulbs with friends, neighbors and family. Especially good when someone is dividing their Iris plants up.

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May 21, 2012

When can you plant a scilla flower bulb?

By Lisa

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December 31, 2011

I live in zone 9 and really want to grow callas. Can I start them indoors to get a good start now (January 1) for spring planting? We get a few days of freezing and have already lost quite a few bulbs planted outside in summer.

By Gayle

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February 22, 2017

Bulbs are a wonderful addition to your landscape, they will multiply and provide beautiful colors, shapes, and fragrances in your garden for years to come. Planting dozens of bulbs can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Read the following article for tips on buying and planting bulbs.

Planting Bulbs

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November 3, 2016

This is a page about digging up and storing tender bulbs. While some plants that grow from bulbs, corms, or tubers do well in colder zones during the spring and summer, they may need to be overwintered to save them for next year.

Some bulbs being stored for spring.

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November 3, 2016

This is a page about planting bulbs indoors. Bulbs can be grown indoors so that they bloom early, often in time for the holiday season.

Green shoots from bulbs planted in green pots.

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March 29, 2016

This is a page about fall planting guide for spring bulbs. To have beautiful flowering bulbs in the spring you will want to plant them in the fall.

Fall Planting for Spring Bulbs

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March 8, 2016

This is a page about how to naturalize bulbs. Naturalizing your bulbs in the lawn and scattered about your garden presents a very pleasing, less formal effect.

Naturalized Bulbs

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March 3, 2016

This is a page about extending the life of your tulip bulbs. Choosing the right bulbs, garden soil and location, as well as year around care can help extend the life of your tulip bulbs.

Blooming tulip bulbs.

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