Bulbs Won't Sprout?

Q: My garden is wet all the year round and it is clay, so of all the bulbs I planted last year, none of them sprouted. Does anyone have any ideas?


A: Jon,

The ideal growing conditions for bulbs calls for soil with good drainage. Mixing in some compost and a little coarse sand or gravel will help improve you soil's drainage. Don't use too much sand, though, or you will create even more compact soil conditions. Because you say your garden is wet all year round, you might want to consider creating raised beds for next year's bulbs. I have also planted bulbs in large, deep pots and left them outdoors over winter (mulching them heavily) to get around poor soil conditions. If you suspect your bulbs didn't sprout due to poor drainage, dig one or two of them up to confirm your suspicions. If they are soft and mushy, poor drainage is the culprit. If they look fine, consider one of the following:

  1. Damaged or missing bulbs could indicate rodents or grub worms.
  2. Many spring bulbs need a period of chilling before they will flower. Most also require full exposure to sun to emerge.

  3. Bulbs were planted too deeply and are taking longer to emerge.
  4. Bulbs were not planted deep enough and have suffered cold damage.
  5. Bulbs were stored improperly before you bought them (dried out) and are no longer viable (especially common to Tulips).

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By Carol (Guest Post)
February 28, 20060 found this helpful

Do not be too dismayed... give them some plant food.. perhaps bulb food if you can find it... and wait until next year.. Most bulbs dont mind clay soil...


One of the problems may be that the bulbs have rotted if it was really wet where they are located... Also, spring bulbs need a really cold time... like winter... where they rest waiting for spring... If you didnt have this really cold time where you live.. they wont blossom unless you refrigerate them..

Another consideration would be perhaps they were eaten by rodents... like squirrels or voles...

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