Spring Flowering Bulbs include Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus and so much more!
Have you admired them blooming in other gardens and wish you had these gorgeous flowers in your yard come spring? Then you may have made a mental note that comes fall, you’re going to plant flower bulbs this year for rewarding results next spring as the cold weather breaks. It’s not difficult to plant bulbs, but the process does require a little planning. The good news is your success is assured because next spring’s flowers are already set inside the bulbs when you receive them.
Spring flowering bulbs have a growth cycle that sets them apart from most other plants. They make roots in the fall, bide their time through winter, emerge and bloom in spring, and go completely dormant in early summer. During their brief period above ground, spring-flowering bulbs must store up enough energy to survive their long dormancy, produce roots, and send up leaves and flowers again the following spring, in that order. That is why it is important to let the leaves die back naturally after bloom. If you cut the leaves early, you force the bulb to make sacrifices, starting with the next spring’s flowers.
Spring Flowering Bulbs are easy to plant and easy to care for and for those who aren’t familiar with the process, here we’re going to address some frequently asked questions to take some of the guesswork out of it. We are offering general information that applies to all spring-flowering bulbs. Commonly asked questions include topics from ordering and planting through care after the blooms fade.
When should I order my bulbs? Spring Flowering Bulb catalogs and websites typically have their fall lineup established and posted by early to mid-summer. For the zealous gardener, it is never too early to plan for fall planting and order the specialty items with limited availability while the selection is briefly at its peak. Most companies do not charge your account until the date of shipment.
When do spring flower bulbs ship? Bulb companies ship their bulbs at the proper time for planting in your climate, generally late September through December, when soil temperatures drop below 55 degrees F. Climate zones warmer than Zone 7 may need to chill bulbs before planting.
When should I plant my new flower bulbs? It is recommended that you plant your bulbs when you receive them. If you can’t plant right away, open all the boxes so that air can get to the bulbs and keep them in a dry, dark, cool place with good air circulation. Temperatures between 50 degrees and 60 degrees F are ideal, although your bulbs should be fine within a range of 38 degrees to 70 degrees F. Planting may be delayed for several weeks if necessary but remember: The bulbs MUST be planted before the onset of winter.
What is the best way to choose planting locations for my bulbs? There are two key considerations when choosing a site for bulbs which are sunlight and drainage.
- Sunlight – Most bulbs need ample sunshine to bloom well and to store the energy required to flower in future springs. Many bulbs, including crocuses and bluebells, may be planted beneath deciduous trees; these bulbs are able to satisfy most of their light needs before the trees leaf out. Tulips, Daffodils and other spring-blooming bulbs require a minimum of six hours of direct sun for best flowering results. See guidelines from the growers that are included with most shipments for recommendations.
- Drainage – All bulbs need good drainage; never plant bulbs where water collects. The drainage of heavy clay soils may be improved by amending the soil with organic matter such as compost.
What is the best way to plant bulbs? There are two principal ways of planting bulbs, either planting bulbs in quantity in a bed or individually.
1. Planting a bed – Excavate the area to be planted and loosen the soil in the bottom. A time-saving trick is to lay down a piece of plywood or a tarp in which to temporarily set the soil out of the way; this makes replacing the soil much faster. Set the bulbs in the bed, following the spacing and depth recommendations provided by the grower. Replace the soil, and if the soil is dry, water thoroughly.
2. Planting bulbs individually – Dig a hole with a trowel, auger or bulb planter. Drop the bulb, or bulbs into the hole. (Some small bulbs can be planted in threes in one hole.) Replace the soil. If the soil is dry, water thoroughly after planting.
Which end is up? Tulips and larger bulbs are easiest to recognize the pointy end which is the top, versus the roots which are at the bottom. Smaller bulbs are sometimes a bit more difficult to tell. Don’t worry too much about which end is up on a bulb. Bulbs know to send shoots up and roots down, so if in doubt plant them on their side.
How much water do flower bulbs need? Bulbs need ample moisture from fall when they make new roots until they finish flowering in spring. If the soil is dry at planting time, water thoroughly after planting. Thereafter water only if rainfall is scarce. Stop watering after the bulbs bloom. Supplemental irrigation after bloom, especially in warmer climates, may cause bulbs to rot.
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What needs to be done with the bulbs after they bloom? After your bulbs bloom, you may remove the spent flowers or seed heads if they are unsightly, but you must allow the foliage to die back naturally. [In the case of tulips, removing the seed heads may also help to encourage the bulbs to flower again the following year.] Spring-flowering bulbs go dormant in summer, reappearing the following spring. If you cut, braid or tie up the foliage before it yellows and withers, you prevent the bulbs from producing the energy they will need to grow and bloom again next year. If you intend to lift and discard bulbs after they bloom and replant in the fall, there’s no need to wait for the foliage to yellow.
Once you see your bulbs blooming and you’ve impressed yourself with rewarding results of your planting the previous fall, more than likely you will want to plant more spring flowering bulbs this year. Taking pictures to help remember what bulbs bloom where and seeing where there are opportunities for more color is a valuable tip, which works better than simply taking notes.
How to extend the season of bloom? Each type of bulb is only going to bloom for as long as intended, but various varieties bloom at different times spring through summer. For instance, there are early, mid and late season bloomers available within the broader categories of bulbs such as Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus, and Alliums.
Amongst the earliest spring bloomers that their show sometimes before winter’s end in February and March are Snowdrops, Squill, Crocus, Winter Wolf’s Bane, Glory of the Snow and early blooming Daffodils. Move on to Hyacinths, more daffodils and the beginning of the earliest Tulips. The progression continues to include Windflowers, Crown Imperial, Snake’s Head and Trout Lily amongst those previously listed. By mid-season, Camassia and Snowflakes join the party. Late spring season is mostly for late Tulips and Spanish Blue Bells, but the show doesn’t have to be over yet. The Alliums come last and can vary in heights of a few inches to a few feet and add a surprise element to the garden as the perennials and annuals are moving toward their own display of color. Many times, these less popular bulbs are overlooked but are useful in woodland settings and many of these spring flowering bulbs are deer resistant.
What bulbs are Deer Resistant? Deer and rodents can do terrible damage to tulip and crocus plantings, but there are many bulbs critters don’t like, chief among them are daffodils.
Below is a list of the bulbs that deer and rodents generally leave alone. Only members of the Amaryllis family, which includes daffodils, snowflakes, and snowdrops, are truly deer proof and rodent proof. They contain a bitter, poisonous substance called lycorine that no mammal will eat. The other bulbs in the list below are unpleasant to deer and rodents. Deer and rodents will generally avoid them but might take a bite if the plants are directly in their path or starvation give the animals no alternative. These bulbs are most often deer resistant: Blue Squill, Camassia, Glory of the Snow, Crown Imperials, Snakes Head, Snow Drops, Snowflake, Starflower, Winter’s Wolf Bane and Allium.
Spring flowering bulbs provide more layers to the garden and compliment the trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals in any garden. The hardest challenge is planting and then having to wait months to see the reward, but it’s worth it. Most will come back year after year and bring joy to anyone who appreciates flowers. We at Turpin Design/Build offer bulb planting services and are happy to order bulbs for you if you wish. Then you can sit back and wait for your flowers to arrive in the spring! For a little more immediate gratification plant with pansies and other fall blooming plants.