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Growing Bulbs

Category Bulbs
Planting bulbs is a perfect way to add color to your garden, especially for the spring. Planting your bulbs during the winter will give your garden a great head start when it warms up. This is a page about growing bulbs.


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By 0 found this helpful
January 29, 2009

Planting 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.
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  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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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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.

I lifted the plant from the soil and cut away all foliage to a point near the top of the bulb. Next, with a sharp, clean knife, I quartered the bulb from top to bottom. I gently separated the resulting layers of each quarter, making sure a bit of the bulb base was still attached to each piece. I filled three or four terra cotta pots with a good, loose soil, and planted these pieces to about half their height. I kept them moderately moist, never wet, never dry.

Within a couple weeks, there were signs of new growth stemming from the base of each piece. Granted, it would be three or four years before these pieces grew into bulbs of blooming size. Still, I thought it a good investment. With very little effort, I turned one Easter lily bulb into fifty.


This, or a similar procedure, can be used to increase the stock of many type bulbs, and onions are no exception. The pictures show the core of an onion which I removed and then quartered. I placed these quarters in soil, making sure that just the base of the bulb was covered.

Placing these plants in a sunny window or under gro lights, and keeping the soil moderately moist will almost insure new growth within a week. The plants pictured will be the perfect size to transplant into the garden by the time the last frost has come and gone. Yes, that fourth piece is a little slow, but it has rooted and will be along, shortly.

Another good investment; delicious, sweet, homegrown, and free, yellow onions.

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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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By 5 found this helpful
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.

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March 14, 20030 found this helpful

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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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, 20040 found this helpful

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, 20120 found this helpful

When can you plant a scilla flower bulb?

By Lisa

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By 0 found this helpful
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, 20170 found this helpful

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.

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November 3, 20160 found this helpful

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.

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November 3, 20160 found this helpful

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.

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March 29, 20160 found this helpful

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.

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March 8, 20160 found this helpful

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.

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March 3, 20160 found this helpful

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.

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July 13, 20130 found this helpful

This is a page about forcing bulbs. Many gardeners enjoy forcing bulbs indoors, allowing them to enjoy beautiful flowers long before they would bloom in the spring.

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June 20, 20130 found this helpful

This is a page about growing summer blooming bulbs. Warm soil and sunny summer days are the perfect conditions for the emergence of the summer blooming bulbs, such as: calla, crocosmias, gladioli, and dahlia.

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April 18, 20130 found this helpful

This is a page about forcing bulbs in winter. Forcing bulbs in winter is easy to do and helps bring a bit of spring to your home early.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

February 27, 20080 found this helpful

Can I plant tulip bulbs in the Spring? Will they rot?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Teresa from Burgaw, NC


Planting Bulbs In The Spring

You can plant several bulbs in a dish on top of stones or in soil and have an early spring in the house, when they are done, I plant them in the garden for many years of spring flowers. I never dig them up and they reproduce each year. If you must plant them in the spring put them in asap and you may get flowers this year but will for sure next year. If you leave them to next fall, you will not have any bulbs to plant they will be dead. So have a lovely indoor spring and later an outdoor one as well. susan from hamilton (02/02/2005)

By Susan from Hamilton

Planting Bulbs In The Spring

Don't wait for spring. If the ground is not frozen plant them as soon as possible. If the ground is frozen where you are, plant them as soon as the ground thaws. In the mean time store them in a cool dry place. A refrigerator works well. Depending on when you get them in the ground, they may or may not bloom this spring but if you don't plant them and they dry up they definitely won't bloom, ever.

Most bulbs need a "cooling period" in order to bloom and depending on how you have them stored now and when you get them in the ground and the amount of cold weather left before spring will determine what happens. I planted some bulbs a few years ago in January and they bloomed about 3-4 weeks later than the others planted years before. In the next years they bloomed at the regular time.

If you have squirrels where you live put down chicken wire over your planting bed and then cover with mulch. This will keep the critters from digging and eating your bulbs.

Good luck!

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September 12, 20100 found this helpful

I would like to start planning on planting my bulbs. Where is a good source to get info on the types of bulbs? Do bulbs only bloom in the spring? Are there any summer and fall blooming bulbs? Thanks so much. I love this site!

Hardiness Zone: 6b

By mindy


Planting Bulbs

I used to get a lot of great info from Dave's Garden. You can google it (06/11/2010)

By Marty Dick

Planting Bulbs

Depending on what kind of bulbs you are referring to. Some people call corms bulbs, too. Michigan Bulb Co, Gurney's, etc. all have the info as well as your state extension office. Google (state) extension service. You will have all sorts of answers for all your growing questions. (06/12/2010)

By Grandma J

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June 10, 20100 found this helpful

By Ellen Brown

Planting Bulbs


When is the best time to plant tulip, lily, crocus and iris bulbs? I ordered about 60 of these bulbs and they said they are fall harvest. Does that mean to plant them in the fall? They are supposed to bloom in the spring, but will the grow during the winter? Will the bulbs be alright in the ground all winter? I've seen lots of iris around in the spring and they are beautiful, that's what I'm hoping for.

Hardiness Zone: 6b

Chas from WV



Tulip and crocus bulbs can both be planted in the fall, lily bulbs and iris tubers in the spring or fall. Iris tubers are planted just below the soil surface (about 2 inches), so if you plant them in the spring, the roots have enough time to get established and you stand less of a chance of losing them due to winter heaving. If you to plant them in the fall, give them plenty of time to establish their roots before winter (July-October).

Tulips are planted about 6 inches below the soil surface and look best when planted en masse rather than individually.

For crocus bulbs, dig holes 2 to 3 inches deep. If you are planting a lot of crocuses, dig shallow trenches. Leave 2 to 4 inches between bulbs.

Plant lilies in groups of three or five bulbs, with each bulb spaced 8-12 inches apart. Space the different groups of bulbs three to five feet apart from each other. Small lily bulbs can be planted two to four inches deep and large bulbs four to six inches deep.

All of these bulbs prefer full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil.


About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


Knowing Where Your Bulbs Are Planted

Depending on your location, you may plant many different bulbs at different times of the year. To avoid planting a bulb in a spot where there is already a bulb use Popsicle sticks to mark the locations of the bulbs when you plant them. I use colored sticks so I know which flowers I planted and where in the garden.

By Susan (07/01/2005)

By ThriftyFun

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Home and Garden Gardening BulbsDecember 29, 2011
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