What an impressive sight each spring. Crocuses peer up through the snow and add color to that drab sea of white. The snow melts and great expanses of bright yellow daffodils appear. They are then followed by the iconic tulip – Mother Nature’s way of saying that spring has finally arrived.
If you wait until spring to decide to share in this colorful show, it’s too late. Such a spectacular show isn’t spontaneous. It takes planning. Planning that starts about now for next spring. That’s because spring flowering bulbs have to be planted the previous fall in order to bloom in spring.
Shipments of bulbs are arriving at garden centers now and the stores are advertising all kinds of deals. So, now is the time to make your bulb selections while there are many to choose from. But wait until the temperatures cool down and the rain returns before planting them.
Stores have bulbs in bulk and in packages. They are best planted as mass plantings rather than just one or two. It’s all that color that makes the big impression, and that can’t be achieved with one or two lonely plants.
Bulbs are packaged in assorted colors or all one color. Which you choose is simply a matter of your taste. Each bin of bulk bulbs usually contains a single color so you can create your own assorted or monochrome bulb garden.
To plant your bulbs, clear the area that you’re going to plant. Lay out the bulbs in the pattern you want them to grow. Using a trowel, dig as deeply as you want to plant the bulb (should be twice as deep as the length of the bulb). Pull the trowel toward you to open up the hole. Place the bulb in the hole root end down. The root end is the flat end with root hairs emerging from the bulb. Pull out the trowel and smooth the backfill. When finished with the bed, spread mulch over it and water.
If you’re planting crocuses in your lawn, don’t clear the area and don’t mulch. Just dig the hole, place the bulb in the hole, backfill and water. Crocuses are the only bulbs that should be planted in the lawn. They grow low enough to the ground that you can mow the lawn over them if necessary. Daffodils and tulips are too tall. You probably won’t have to mow over the top of crocuses, however. They’ll likely be finished blooming before you have to mow.
Don’t fertilize when you plant bulbs. Some people insist that you have to put a scoop of fertilizer in the hole but you don’t. The bulbs are almost entirely food made by the leaves and stored in the bulb. Next fall, it’s OK to spread a bit of fertilizer around the plants.
When your bulbs finish blooming next spring, it’s OK to cut off the spent flowers. Don’t cut off the leaves, however. They’ll continue to manufacture food throughout the summer. It’s OK to cut off the leaves after they turn yellow or tan. By then, they’ll have made all the food they’re going to make.