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Growing Bulbs Successfully

Posted October 06, 2020

Plants that sleep underground and suddenly spring forth in flower have a special beauty in the landscape. Bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers come in a variety of colors and unusual forms. Bulbs are also plants for all places. Sunny or shady, wet or dry, just about any spot will prove suitable for some kind of flower in bulb. Bulbs bloom in all season, from spring crocus that peak out in late winter (even through snow), daffodils that grace the spring garden with their sunny spring faces, gladioli that display their flowers and foliage in the middle of summer and sternbergia that light up the autumn.  

With a careful selection, you can have bulbs blooming throughout your landscape for much of the gardening season, from spring until autumn. 

Making the best show of your bulbs is to plant the correct bulbs for your area. Before you start, determine which bulbs grow in your area so that they naturalize. The correct species will multiply all on their own. Other bulbs need more care. Some, for example, require winter chilling, and others may mildew if exposed to summer rain. Fancy tulips in our hot climate only bloom the first year and wither away forever after that.  

Select healthy , high-quality bulbs. Always obtain your bulbs from a reputable nursery, garden center, or a reliable direct source. Over the long tun it’s more economical to budget a little more up front for bulbs that will produce beautiful blooms in their first season and reality naturalize. Examine each bulb to be sure it is firm and free of blemishes, cuts, or spots, any of which could be entry points for fungal diseases or bacterial rot. Generally the bigger the bulb, the bigger the bloom.  

Most bulbs adapt to various soil, but many grow best in well-drained soil amended with compost. Plant bulbs as soon as possible after you obtain them to prevent their drying out. Lilies are especially prone to drying. If you must store them, do so by packing them loosely in damp sawdust for best keeping.  

Planting bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers at the correct depth ensures that the sprouting flower stalks will reach the sure end and remain healthy. 

Planting depth for the bulb species are found on its package label. If no label is available the general role of thumb is; most bulbs are plated at depth equal to three times their diameter. Although rhizomes, such as iris, are planted shallowly with parts of their structure exported.  

Use a dibbler or bulb planting tool to excavate a hole 2” deeper than the recommenced depth. Add 1 tablespoon of Bone Meal per hole and cover with 2” of soil. Always bury the fertilizer to avoid direct contact between it and the bulb.

Orient each bulb so that its top is up. If you are not sure which end is up you can lay the bulb on its sides. Place the bulb in the hole and cover it with the amended soil. Water bed thoroughly after planting.


Mass plantings of bulbs create a beautiful show rather than 1 bulb here and there.  

Interplant bulbs that bloom at different times of the year for an extended bloom period.

Top dressing in early spring with 1/2” of well composted manure will help increase bloom size and extend the life of the bulbs.  

Thin out after 3-5 years or if bulbs stop blooming to give them elbow room.


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