Planting Bulbs for Spring Color

Planting Bulbs for Spring Color

Fall is a great time for gardening. Cool temperatures make for a great climate for both gardeners and new plants. During the fall and winter plants put their energy into their root systems, providing a good foundation for when temperatures are warmer and it is time for them to grow leaves and the flowers and seeds they use to reproduce.

While it may be tempting to put away your tools and forget about gardening until spring, fall is the perfect time to plant for spring color. And one of the most colorful spring plants that do need to be planted in the fall are spring flowering bulbs.

Bulbs have been among the most popular types of flowers for many, many years.  Tulip bulbs were once so popular in Holland that a single bulb was worth more than an entire herd of cows. Tulip Mania as it was popularly called, is widely seen to be the first example of a market bubble.

Mass of Spring Flowering Tulips

So while you may be weary from all of your summer gardening chores, I hope the picture above inspires you to plant bulbs this fall. I know that I have often decided not to plant bulbs in the fall, only to be envious of folks who had this pop of color in their landscapes in early spring.

And even though Tulip Mania is long past, bulbs are still beautiful and useful plants for the home gardener.  Bulbs are renowned for their hardiness and for their ability to re-bloom season after season.  In addition, most bulb flowers are very easy to grow and very inexpensive to buy.  With all these advantages, it is easy to see why bulbs are so popular with all kinds of gardeners.

Most types of bulbs should be planted in the fall of the year, but it is important to get planting instructions when you buy your bulbs.  There are some bulbs that bloom in the fall of the year, and they are usually planted in the springtime instead. 

Before you choose your bulbs, take a look at the area where you want to plant. It is important to know how much sunlight the area receives and whether the soil in the area tends to be very wet, dry or somewhere in between. Most bulbs prefer partial to full sun and moist loamy soil, but it is very important to check individual bulbs for their requirements.

So where do you buy bulbs? First, there are lots of on-line resources like Michigan Bulb Company or Brecks. You can browse on-line and from the descriptions be sure that the bulbs you order will work in your site. You can also request a free physical catalog. I used to love getting these before we started to do everything on-line. It was fun to browse and plan from these colorful resources.

One word of caution – if you haven’t planted bulbs before it’s easy to get carried away by the beautiful pictures in the catalogs. Start small so you know how much time and effort you can put into this task.

Another great resource is your local garden center. The advantage of buying locally is that the garden center should be carrying bulbs that do well in your area. Additionally the staff should be able to assist you with selection and best practices in planting your bulbs.

Tulip  bulbs

When choosing bulbs for planting it is important to choose healthy ones.  The best way to choose healthy bulbs is to choose the firmest, largest bulbs you can find.  Firm bulbs are generally very healthy bulbs, and large bulbs typically produce the largest and best blooming flowers.

Unhealthy bulbs are generally very easy to spot as well.  Bulbs that are very light, cracked or soft should be avoided.  Many bulbs are susceptible to rot, and a soft bulb may be showing signs of rot.  In addition, a lightweight or shriveled looking bulb may be unable to bloom.  A good, healthy bulb will be surprisingly heavy for its size, so it is important to handle the bulbs to choose the best ones.

When planting bulbs in the fall, they should be planted around early to mid-October.  The goal is to have the bulbs in the ground around six weeks prior to the time the ground starts to freeze.  This means that the optimum time for planting bulbs will vary according to your own location.

Relaxed Gardener Cultivator in Use

It is important to plant bulbs in a soil that has been properly prepared.  The depth the bulbs should be planted will vary from variety to variety, so again it is important to get planting instructions if you are unfamiliar with the needs of the bulb.  For instance, crocus bulbs should be planted four inches deep, while daffodils and hyacinths need to be planted to a depth of six inches.  Tulips should be planted even deeper, to a depth of about eight inches.

One great tool to have on hand when working with bulbs is the bulb planter or trowel with depth markings.  Either of these tools can help you to plant your bulbs at the correct depth.

Relaxed Gardener Transplanter in Use

Gardeners who want a more wild and natural look to their bulb garden often prefer to dig a trench to the appropriate depth and simply lay the bulbs in.  This approach can provide a unique, if somewhat unpredictable, look when the bulbs begin to emerge.

Daffodils Along Roadside

When you plant your bulbs, it is a good idea to lay a small amount of fertilizer in the bottom of each hole, then cover that fertilizer with a layer of soil.  The fertilizer provides much needed nutrients for the bulb to start its growth, but it is important that the bulb not make direct contact with the fertilizer, since this could potentially cause the bulb to be burned. 

Bulbs should always be planted with the pointed end sticking up and the flat side pointing down, directly on top of the layer of soil covering the fertilizer.  After the bulbs have been planted, they should be covered with more soil and provided with a good, thorough watering.

I hope this article inspires you to start planning for planting your spring flowering bulbs now. This easy fall chore will provide beautiful spring color after the dreariness of winter.

Child with Tulips

Do you include spring flowering bulbs in your garden? Comment below and let us know your experiences. We love to hear from you!

Happy Fall Planting!


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