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HOW TO GROW BULBS

Care of bulbs: After Blooming
Flower bulbs are beloved, in the United States and globally, for their easy care and vast variety. Whether planning an early spring garden with crocus and snowdrops, a classic array of tulips and daffodils, or a summer collection of hyacinths and gladiolus, you'll find yourself working with bulbous plants. Luckily, these are some of the lowest-maintenance plants in your garden. With just a little planning, you can enjoy years of flourishing bulbs--many species even naturalize and multiply.

How to Prepare Your Soil for Bulbs

Fall is the prime time for planting of hardy spring flowering bulbs. Bulbs and perennials need plenty of water and good drainage. If water has a tendency to stand in the planting area, you'll want to break up hard sub-soil and put in a layer of drainage material such as coarse gravel, broken stone or sifted cinders below your surface soil.

Summer-blooming Dutch Bulbs and perennials are not fussy about soil -- provided it is not too heavy and sticky. If soil is heavy, loosen it with lots of humus, sand, gypsum, etc. If very light, add moisture holders -- humus, peat mold, etc. If you have a soil with a high clay content, it can be improved by adding compost, peat moss or some other source of organic material. The organic material should be worked in the top twelve inches of soil (eighteen inches is even better).

How to Fertilize Bulbs

Most vegetable and produce gardeners rely on soil amendments and fertilizers to improve their crop, but fertilizer isn't just for agriculture. Perennials and bulbs can benefit from added nutrients, too, and you'll enjoy taller stems and more blooms as a result. The key to fertilizing bulbs: mix flower food or bulb fertilizer with the soil. Don't apply fertilizer directly to bulbs, as heavy contact can cause burning. Add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil when you plant, and sprinkle more on the ground above your bulbs in the springtime. Commercial fertilizers list three bold numbers on their packaging. The first number indicates the percentage of nitrogen per pound, the second number is the percentage of phosphate, and the third number is the percentage of potash. Look for a 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer for bulbs.

How to Choose a Location for Planting Bulbs

Before selecting the location to plant bulbs in the landscape, consider the light requirements of the plant. Does the plant require full sunshine, partial shade or full shade? Since early spring bulbs bloom before most trees shrubs leaf out, they can successfully be planted under trees and shrubs. Many summer blooming bulbs require full sun or partial shade. Spring bulbs planted on a south slope will bloom earlier than the same bulbs planted on a north slope. Spring Bulbs planted on a hillside will bloom earlier than bulbs planted in a valley. Cold air is heavier than warm air and behaves like water. It flows down the slope, settling in the low areas.

Bulb Planting Depth

depth for planting The general rule of thumb for planting spring bulbs is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulbs is tall. This means most large bulbs like tulips or daffodils will be planted about 6 inches deep while smaller bulbs will be planted 3-4 inches deep. The depth of planting should be measured from the surface level of the soil to the shoulder of the bulb and the eyes or crowns of the perennials.Distance between plants is measured from the center of one plant to the center of the next.

There are two basic methods of planting. One is to dig individual holes for each plant. This can be done with a garden trowel or one of the special hole-cutting tools called bulb planters. Dig the hole several inches deeper than the recommended planting depth and fill to base level with a mixture of loose soil and Breck's Food for Bulbs and Perennials. Then place your plant in the hole and cover it with loose soil. Using your fingers, gently push the soil into position around the plant so there will be no air pockets where water can collect.

If you are planting a quantity of plants in a single area, you may want to dig an entire bed to planting depth. Then you can locate each plant just where you want it before covering with soil. Press the soil into position around each plant to eliminate air pockets.

Plant enough Bulbs for a showy display. For best appearance, plant bulbs in masses. Space bulbs in bed according to the size of the bulb. As a general rule, large bulbs, such as Tulips and Daffodils should be spaced 3 to 6 inches apart. Small bulbs, like crocus and snowdrops, should be spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. To find the exact measurements for your bulbs, visit our Planting Guide Chart here.

When Planting Bulbs, Which End is Up?

various bulbs

bulbs One of the most frequently asked questions about planting Bulbs is, "Which end goes up?" Most true bulbs, such as Tulips and Daffodils, have pointed tips which should point upward. Corms, tubers and rhizomes usually show sprouts on their upper sides, and these should be on top when planted. Some of the smaller bulbs, such as Poppy Anemones, look like small dried peas or small stones and can be planted in any direction - their shoots will find their way toward the sun.





Watering Bulbs

Water the Bulbs well following planting. This will help settle the soil in the planting bed plus provide needed moisture for the bulbs to start rooting. Fall planted bulbs must root before cold weather. Avoid over-watering at planting time since this can result in bulb rot.

watering bulbs Average spring conditions should provide enough moisture for your bulbs. However, if the weather is unusually hot and dry, a weekly deep soaking will produce larger, longer-lasting blooms. For both spring and Summer Bulbs, start watering when the flower buds first appear on the plant if the soil is dry. Remember that the bulbs may have been planted 6 to 8 inches deep and the water needs to soak to that depth. Through the bud, bloom and early foliage stage, add about one inch of water per week if this amount has not been supplied from rainfall. Water with a soaker hose to keep water off the bloom. Bulbs like Alliums, or the shallow planted bulbs, will rot quickly if over-watered in the heat of summer.



How to Care for Bulbs After Flowering

How to Care for Spring Flowers After Blooming
Once the foliage dies back or matures in the late spring or early summer, the bulb is dormant. You can tell the plant is dormant when the foliage is brown and papery and can easily be pulled free. Summer is the dormant period for Spring Bulbs. As the foliage dies back, the roots that nourish the bulbs also die back. With fall rains, the bulb comes out of summer dormancy and roots begin to grow again to provide the bulb nutrients and moisture. Once the Spring Bulbs enter dormancy, the time is right to dig the bulbs if needed. Some bulbs benefit from digging to divide the bulbs and spread them out over the bed.

The foliage on the Spring Bulbs such as snowdrops will die back rapidly and cause little problem. The foliage on the larger bulbs like Tulips and Daffodils will take several weeks to die back. Keep in mind that after flowering, the plant needs the green leaves to manufacture food (photosynthesis) that is stored in the bulb for next year's growth. If you mow or remove the foliage too early, the plant can no longer manufacture nutrient reserves for next year. This results in a small, weak bulb which will gradually decline and die out.

There are several ways to divert attention from the yellowing bulb foliage. Interplant the bulbs in the spring using one or two colours of annuals. Place bulbs behind the plants on the front edge of a border planting. Plant taller flowering bulbs behind lower growing foreground shrubs. Plant bulbs with groundcovers and perennials like hosta or daylilies. Use your imagination when it comes to planting your bulbs and you can get creative enough to hide the dying foliage.

How to Stake Bulbs After Flowering

support ring

Some of the Summer Blooming Bulbs like Dahlias and tall, flowering gladioli occasionally need extra support to be able to remain erect. A plant support ring is an easy way to support plants that have weak stems. Stakes will also work for this purpose. A good practice is to actually put the stake into place at planting time to avoid accidental damage to the bulbs or tubers. If you love Glads, but do not want to stake them, then you will want to plant our Glamini Glads, which do not require staking! Plant support hoops can also be a big help to peonies who have heavy big blooms that tend to fall to the ground.



Caring for Bulbs After Blooms Fade

Flowers should be removed when petals begin to fade, so they will not go to seed. If seed pods are allowed to remain, they will draw off the food needed to nourish your bulbs for next year's growth. All petals should be removed from the blooming area after they have fallen. Even where bulbs have been naturalized in a lawn, leaves should not be cut until they turn yellow and whither naturally. While they are still green, the leaves serve as a source of nourishment to the bulbs.

Mulching Tips for Bulbs

A year-round mulch of compost, leafmold, leaves or commercial types of mulch has a positive effect on your Bulbs and other flowers by keeping the soil from drying out, maintaining a more even soil temperature and reducing weed growth. It also prevents soil from splashing onto the flowers and foliage.



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