Basic Gardening – Planting Bulbs

Spring flower bulb planting in the fall is fast, easy and a nearly foolproof way to add color to your garden. By following a few simple steps you should enjoy your spring and summer bulb garden for years to come. Here are a few basic guidelines. Spring flowering bulbs need to be planted in the fall before the first hard freeze. Subsequent cold weather will sustain the bulbs’ dormancy period required to stimulate root growth and spring flowering. If you have purchased your bulbs early in the fall it is OK to store them unpackaged in a cool dry place between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days. For extended periods store them in your refrigerator, but keep them away from ripening fruit as the ethylene released by the fruit can damage your bulbs. When planning a new bulb garden site keep in mind the following:

  • Mass or cluster plantings in round or curved shapes create the best color impact.
  • Bulbs do not like “wet feet”.
  • Make sure the area you are planting has good soil drainage. Do not plant in areas where the soil stays constantly damp. Make sure the area gets plenty of the sunlight in the spring.
  • Read the label or planting guide supplied with the bulbs. Many varieties of bulbs will be taller than others, so it is important to plant the shorter ones in the front of the bed.

Prepare your flowerbed by spading or roto-tilling to a depth of 8-10 inches. If you have sandy soil it is a good idea to mix in some compost, shredded leaves or peat moss. For heavy, clay soils, the addition of coarse sand or peat moss will improve drainage. Once the soil is ready for planting, follow these guidelines when planting your bulbs:

  • Refer to your planting guide to determine proper planting depth and spacing for each type of bulb. If no information is available a general guideline is to plant a bulb 3 times as deep as its diameter. By varying your planting depth a little you can get bulbs of the same variety to flower at different times instead of all at once.
  • Make a hole for the bulb using a trowel, shovel or with the handle of a garden tool. Place the bulb pointed side up firmly in the bottom of the hole and gently cover the bulb with soil.
  • Cottage Farms always recommends mulching immediately since mulch shades and cools the soil, helps prevent weeds and provides organic matter for the soil.
  • Water your bulbs in thoroughly the day of planting. If the fall or winter is very dry, an occasional watering would be helpful. During the growing season make sure they receive at least 1-inch of rain or equivalent watering per week.

When your bulbs start actively growing in the spring it is recommended to fertilize every two to three weeks with a water soluble fertilizer like Cottage Farms’ Bud-N-Bloom Booster. Such feeding should be done in early spring / summer to promote flowering and superior bulb growth. After your bulbs have bloomed and the petals really begin to fade you may want to remove the flower spike to prevent seeding (which takes away nutrients needed for next year blooms). Allow the leaves to die back and dry up before removing. This is an essential part of a bulbs life cycle in preparation of winter dormancy and next year’s growth.