Expanding Your Spring Bulb Garden

The earliest spring colors to emerge in your landscape are supplied by your bulb garden – crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are some of the more popular. If you thought, last spring, that you’d like more of these flowers, either in your present bulb garden or in another garden, now’s the time to take action for next spring.

You may have noted bare spots when your spring flowers came up last year. Bare spots could mean that some of your present bulbs died. Hopefully, you took pictures so you know where new bulbs should be planted and what color(s) you should plant. Many think all spring bulbs are perennials but they aren’t. Tulips, for example, are perennials in their native Turkey but much hybridization has taken place over the years. Today, most tulips still come back year after year, but others are treated as annuals. Be sure to read the package when you buy your bulbs or talk to one of the garden center horticulturists if you have questions about the bulbs you’re considering.

Daffodils are perennials, as are crocuses and hyacinths. One reason some of your bulbs didn’t appear last spring could be that they were dinner for a critter. An animal may have smelled the bulbs below the surface on a day when the ground wasn’t frozen. Another reason may be that the bulbs didn’t have enough fertilizer or they had too much water and didn’t have enough energy to bloom. You don’t have to place fertilizer in the hole when you first plant a bulb. It has plenty of food stored in the bulbs to flower and foliate the first year. After that, they may need to be fertilized. Bulbs that get too wet from a build-up of snow may become water- logged and not return the next year.

Before going out to buy new bulbs this fall, dig up where you think the failed bulbs should be or where photos show them to be. If the soil is disturbed and the bulbs are gone, you’ll know wildlife got to them. If the bulb is still in the hole, first check to make sure it’s positioned correctly. The pointed end should be facing up and the root end that looks like the base of an onion should be facing down. It may have tipped over when you backfilled or an animal rejected it and put it back upside down.

To inspect them, take any non-blooming bulbs from the hole and either rub or wash the soil off. Bulbs that are smaller than healthy bulbs may be malnourished. Soft or spongy bulbs may have drowned. In both cases, they should be replaced. If the bulb is in the hole wrong, it’s up to you whether to replace it or give it a second chance.

When picking colors at the garden center, try to remember the colors already in that bed. It’s easy to choose a color that doesn’t go well with those already in place, and that might make the bed less attractive. Also, don’t scimp on bulbs. They look better in mass plantings than just a few scattered plants. My final suggestion is to take pictures when your bulbs are in bloom each year in case you have to fill in with new bulbs six months later.

3 comments on “Expanding Your Spring Bulb Garden

  1. A nice post. I love my spring bulbs and plant more each year. We have a lot of squirrels and opposums, who seem to love crocus especially. What they don’t eat, they replant in various, odd places!

  2. Not many naturalize with our mild seasons. We plant the spring bulbs later (probably about the time others plant their summer bulbs). Otherwise, they bloom in winter and could get ruined by the rain. If they bloom again the following year, they bloom too early. However, I would be so pleased if they bloomed again that I would not mind so much if they get battered by rain.

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