All About Bulbs

Planting Crocus

Bulbs are a great addition to any garden. They provide long-lasting color from early spring to late fall. In addition, they easily adapt themselves to many varied habitats. Bulbs grow well in any average soil and full sun. Bulbs can flourish in numerous habitats lending themselves to being used informally (planted randomly), planted in clumps to create astonishing displays of color, or planted in cracks and nooks in a rock garden. The actual bulb of a plant is used as food during its dormant season. Plants that grow from bulbs are called monocotyledons and include onions and garlic.

When choosing a site for your bulbs, look for an area with average, well-drained soil. Well-drained soil is going to prevent rot. Bulbs like to be protected from wind and like to grow in full sun. Prepare the site by digging down at least 10 inches and mix peat moss into the soil. Use about 2 gallons per square yard. Bone meal can be added into the planting area at a rate of 5 pounds per 100 square feet. Remember that bulbs planted in full sun bloom earlier and last longer. When digging the planting hole make it two or three times the length and width of the bulb you are planting. It is also important to dig the hole with a flat bottom. Generally, plant the bulbs further apart than deep. It is very important to not trim a bulb’s foliage while it is still alive and growing, wait until it dies back in the winter.

When choosing bulbs at your local garden center it is important to look for a few things. Look for bulbs that are firm to the touch, not shriveled or dry-looking, and free of soft spots. Once you purchase your bulbs do not handle them roughly, leave them in a hot area, and make sure that they get plenty of air circulation. This should ensure that your investment is protected until you can plant them.

Once bulbs are planted they are generally easy to care for. It is best to remove weeds by hand and especially avoid the use of weed killers. When weeding wait until the bulb’s shoots start to show. When a bulb is left in the ground for several years I would recommend feeding them with a general-purpose fertilizer or specialized bulb food. Take care to scratch this into the soil around the base of the foliage. Take care when watering to water around the base of the plant and not over the top. The deadheading of bulbs is recommended to prevent the seeds from propagating unwanted plants. When deadheading cut off the flower and about 1”-2” of the stem and do not cut back the foliage. Many bulbs do not need to be artificially supported if they are planted deep enough. If it is necessary to support a tall plant use a couple of stakes and some string to hold the plants up from the back. In the winter mulch your bulbs with hay, straw, leaves, or more commonly in this area, bark mulch. Make sure to mulch after the ground freezes. This practice insulates the bulbs from extreme weather.