Few things can lift us from the final weeks of the winter doldrums quite like the first crocus peeking up above the snow. Crocus’s are the opening act for the yellow and white show put on by daffodils. Finally, the featured act takes the stage – the cacophony of color put forth by mass plantings of tulips.
What a let down it can be if that show of spring color fails to appear. But that’s a very real probability if you don’t plant the bulbs this fall. Bulbs have to overwinter in the soil if we want to see flowers next spring. I find that rather interesting because we associate tulips with The Netherlands when they are actually native to Turkey. Daffodils are native to southern Europe, the middle east and North Africa
These plants may have come from temperate regions of the world but they have adapted well to the cool, northern climate where we live. These perennials have “naturalized,” so we can look forward to them reappearing every year.
Garden centers and big box stores are receiving shipments of fresh bulbs. Check their advertising for availability. Some mail order companies are already shipping orders. Bulbs are sold in boxes, bags and bulk. The boxes and bags may have an assortment of colors or a single color. The bulk bulbs will be in bins, each of which contain a specific variety and color bulb.
If this is the first time you’ve planted bulbs, some planning is recommended before investing in bulbs. Draw a sketch of the beds in which you’re planning to plant the bulbs. Add dots where you want them to be. Decide whether you want a rainbow of colors, mass planting of a single color or any combination in between. Spacing should be roughly 4 to 6 inches. The spacing depends on the size of the flowers and how tightly you want them to be spaced.
The depth at which you plant bulbs depends on the size of the bulb. The rule of thumb is two to three times deeper than the length of the bulb. For tulips that usually means 6 to 8 inches, 3 or 4 inches for daffodils.
If you’ve never planted bulbs before, take a good look at them before you start the planting process. There is a top and bottom. The pointy side is the top and the flat, hairy side is the bottom. It’s important that they be oriented correctly when planted.
The planting process is quite simple. Thrust a trowel into the spot where you want to plant. Be sure it’s at the correct depth for the bulb you’re planting. Pull the trowel toward yourself to create the hole. Carefully place the bulb in the hole root side (bottom) down. Pull the trowel out and let the soil backfill. Smooth the soil and then water. Don’t fertilize when you plant. Bulbs contain plenty of food to sustain them over the winter and through their spring growth. You can spread some fertilizer, formulated for bulbs, around the surface of existing bulb beds this fall.
Selecting and planting spring flowering bulbs can be a fun, family project. Enjoy.