Fall is the Time to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs!
Even as leaves begin to change color and our fall perennials are blooming best, we have to think about next year’s spring color. Spring flowering bulbs really gear me up for my late spring and summer gardening. They show me that even in early spring; colors besides green are possible in my landscape beds. With only a handful of perennials and shrubs blooming at the same time, bulbs and spring flowering trees are great at welcoming us to another year.
When thinking about bulbs, we must consider all the different species, and within them their different cultivars. Some species, like grape hyacinth and snowdrops only have a few cultivars, but species like daffodils and tulips have hundreds. Then there are alliums, crocus, hyacinths, and crown imperials. Before buying and planting them, there are several things to consider; quality, color, location, soil type, sunlight, height, and visibility.
When selecting your bulbs, pick species you like to see. I love bulbs of all kinds, but my favorites are daffodils, crocus, and double flowered tulips. My brother prefers hyacinths and daffodils. Everyone has their favorites. In large botanical gardens and parks across the country, gardeners plant massive swaths of tulips, hyacinths, and grape hyacinths, then pull them up and do the whole thing over again the next year.
Bulb quality is very important. Look for firm, clean, dry bulbs without any wet or squishy areas. When picking tulips or daffodils, try and find ones than have a “sister” bulb connected to the side, you may get an extra bloom for your trouble! There should also be no mildew or moldy spots on your bulbs; throw those back!
Location for your bulbs should also be determined before purchasing. Your bulbs should be planted where they receive at least four hours of sun each day, with eight hours being best. Soil should be well drained and easy to dig. Avoid planting in overly wet soils and rocky soils. If planting crown imperial and taller tulips, be sure there is nothing above them that will crush their stalks as they grow.
Planting in masses is great but you can also plant for a little bit of interest around a corner, in beds of vinca and ivy, and in borders. Bulbs should be planted two times their width deep. Dig the hole first and measure with a ruler or measured trowel. You can also use an auger bit attached to a cordless drill if your soil is loose. If you have dry or clay soil, amend with cotton bur or mushroom compost, or worm castings. Put a few tablespoons of bone meal into the hole then pop the bulb into the hole and cover loosely with soil. After you have all your bulbs planted, water them and add more soil if needed. You can also mulch them lightly with compost, chopped leaves, pine needles, or pine bark to keep the soil moist and to protect against freeze damage.
Finally, take a before picture of your beds and get out your catalogs to browse until your bulbs bloom!