Tips and Techniques for Planting Bulbs
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 19, 2010
Fall is the season for planting spring-blooming bulbs. The idea of planting dozens of bulbs can seem like an intimidating task - especially to new gardeners. Here are some tips and techniques to help make the job easier.
- Whenever possible, buy loose bulbs locally. The selection may be smaller than shopping by catalog, but it gives you the advantage of being able to visually inspect each bulb and reject those showing any signs of mold or rot.
- Look for local suppliers that sell bulbs at the appropriate planting time, not months before. If you shop from a mail-order supplier, make sure they ship bulbs to you at the proper planting time (not earlier). Ask them if they offer a guarantee or refund policy.
- Shop early. Both local retailers and mail order suppliers offer the best selections early in the season.
- Buy the biggest, heaviest bulbs you can afford. They generally produce the best flowers, and are better candidates for producing offsets to increase your stock.
Selecting A Site
- Most spring-flowering bulbs grow best in full sun. This doesn't mean, however, that they won't grow well if planted under deciduous trees. Their active growing season occurs before most trees leaf out, so they will still receive plenty of sunshine in the spring.
- Bulbs need loose, humus-rich soil to grow roots and shoots. A site with well-drained soil is necessary, as most bulbs will easily succumb to rot if forced to stand in water for any length of time. Raised beds make for easy planting and are a great way to compensate for poor drainage or compacted soils. A pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is best, but many will tolerate slightly more acidic soils.
- In general, bulbs should be planted at a depth three to four times the height of the bulb. This protects the bulbs against frost, foraging animals, and possible physical damage from hoeing.
- Bulb planters come in different shapes and sizes, from very small tools called dibbers, to hand-held planters, and long-handled planters in which you use your feet as leverage for pushing into the soil. No matter what tool you use, the planting steps are basically the same. Push the tool into the soil. Stop at the desired depth. Twist the planter and lift out the soil. Place the bulb in the bottom of the hole. Fill the hole with dirt from the planter. Repeat.
- Using planters to dig individual holes works well when planting a small number of bulbs or filling in spaces between perennial shrubs and flowers. For mass plantings, use a garden shovel or spade to clear away all of the turf and create one large planting bed.
- Many rodents, especially squirrels, love to dig up and dine on certain types of bulbs. Laying wire mesh (e.g. chicken fence) over the soil surface above your bulbs is a great way to prevent squirrels from digging them up. The bulbs will still be able to shoot through the mesh, but animals won't be able to get to the bulbs. Another method is to enclose entire beds with a wire cage.
- An alternative to fighting with animal pests is to plant the types of bulbs they don't like to eat. Daffodil bulbs are poisonous, and therefore avoided by even the hungriest of animals. Squills and snowdrops are also typically left alone.
Popular Spring Flowering Bulbs
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- Checkered Lily, Guinea-Hen Flower - Fritillaria meleagris
- Common Grape Hyacinth - Muscari botryoides
- Common Hyacinth - Hyacinthus orientalis
- Common Snowdrop - Galanthus nivalis
- Crocus - Crocus species
- Daffodil, Narcissus, Jonquil - Narcissus species
- Dutch Hybrid Iris - Iris hybrids
- Giant Flowering Onion - Allium giganteum
- Glory-of-the-Snow - Chionodoxa luciliae
- Grecian Windflower, Green Anemone - Anemone blanda
- Siberian Squill - Scilla siberica
- Tulip - Tulipa species
- Winter Aconite - Eranthis hyemalis
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November 19, 2017
I have raised planter boxes. In the past I have planted bulbs in these containers without success, the bulbs never come up. I'm assuming they are freezing over our harsh New England winters. I'm wondering if I plant the bulbs in pots first, then put them into the raised planter if that it might give them a better chance of not freezing. Any help or different solution would be greatly appreciated.
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November 19, 20170 found this helpful
They need to be planted in the fall, 8 inches below the ground level. Raised beds and containers are above ground, so they are most likely freezing.
If you want them in the raised beds, plant the pots in the ground, then when they come up move the pots at that time to the raised beds.
You would have to move them back again in the fall.
March 17, 2019
Which way do you plant the bulbs? I know there is a top and bottom and am not sure. One end looks like it was cut and other end is untouched. I tend to think that is the upside of the bulb, the one with the 'cut', and the flat side being bottom?
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March 17, 20190 found this helpful
I'm not familiar with bulbs that have cuts, but I do know 2 things I can share. 1. The pointier, smoother end goes up and the round, rougher end goes down. 2. If you're not sure which is which, place it on it's side. It'll figure out on it's own how to grow toward the sun and heat. :-) Good luck!
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March 18, 20190 found this helpful
The pointy side goes up. The package should also tell you how deep to plant it.
Answer this Question Pghgirl40
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March 18, 20190 found this helpful
Better Homes and Garden's has this great guide for multiple lovely flower types...hope it helps!!
Be sure to plant for your zone (if you are in the US).
If you don't know your zone or best planting times, contact your local home extension office..
The bulb guide and HE links are below:
Happy planting!! I hope you have better luck than me with bulbs! In my neighborhood we call bulbs "deer food". They must be desperate because they even eat the ones they aren't supposed to like :)
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