Nature's Little Plant Factories
Bulbs are natural wonders of the plant world that are most recognized for their vibrant beauty, but most unique in their self-sufficient nature. Each bulb contains next season's plant, neatly packaged with enough nutrients to grow and bloom. Are you ready for a little bulb gardening 101?
True bulbs have a period of growth and flowering, followed by a period of dormancy where they die back to ground level at the end of each growing season. Spring-flowering bulbs
require a chilling period during dormancy, when they are exposed to temperatures between 35-55° F for 12-16 weeks. Summer-flowering bulbs
are more tender and need to be lifted and/or protected from cold in Northern planting zones.
Most flowering bulbs are perennial, meaning they will return again the following year and often for many years, increasing over time in size and flower power. Many gardeners prefer bulbs that can be naturalized, which means they will return in greater numbers each year, spreading out in the bed, lawn or landscape.
It's All About the Bloom Times
One of your first considerations when planning a bulb garden should be bloom time. The most common blooming seasons for bulbs are spring, summer and autumn, but depending on your garden's growing zone, a few bulbs (like some varieties of hardy cyclamen) can even bloom in winter. Each of these seasons can be divided into even more specific flowering times. For example, snowdrops
are among the earliest of the spring bloomers to emerge, while alliums
appear in late spring after most other spring bulbs have finished. A well-planned spring bulb display will have something blooming each week, with perennial shrubs and plants filling in just when the bulb foliage is starting to wither. Explore all of our flowering bulbs to turn your garden into a year-round showcase of blooms!
There are some general rules to follow when planting bulbs:
Make sure you are planting in a sunny location--at least half a day's exposure. It's OK to plant early- and mid-spring flowering bulbs around deciduous trees, because the trees will not be in full leaf when the bulbs emerge. For later-blooming varieties, the best way to confirm that your bulbs will receive enough light is to choose a site after nearby trees are in full leaf.
Don't plant your bulbs under aggressive ground covers or dense turf-grass. Bulbs love the loose, sandy soil that is commonplace in Holland. You can loosen your own soil by adding humus, sand, gypsum, etc. As a rule of thumb, plant bulbs when the soil temperature is about 60° F at a depth of 6 inches. The cool soil stimulates root growth.
If you are planting an entire bulb garden, you can spade the whole bed area and then dig out the top 6-8" of soil. Place your bulbs atop the remaining loosened soil. After you have set the bulbs in place, you may want to add a bit of Breck's Food for Bulbs & Perennials
. Then, cover the bulbs with the removed soil and water them thoroughly.
For planting bulbs in smaller groups or individually, you can use a simple garden trowel
. Dig a hole a bit larger than the bulb and be sure to loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and treat it like a miniature bed (as described above). You may prefer to use a bulb planter which digs uniform holes. Treat each hole as described above for planting with a trowel. Whichever way you choose to plant your bulbs, remember to always follow the specific instructions that come with your bulbs.
Fall is the prime time for planting of hardy spring-flowering bulbs
, and most bulbs can be planted until the ground is frozen. If you miss your planting window, you can still plant bulbs in containers. Just make sure they receive an adequate chilling period in a cold garage or shed. When spring temperatures arrive, move your containers outside or transplant your bulbs into the garden.
Flowering bulbs are an important addition to any landscape or garden, supplying years of beauty in your yard with just one planting. The great variety of bloom colour, flowering time, plant height and shape are all good reasons to add bulbs to your landscape.