Taking the time to plan, prepare, and plant bulbs in the fall is what gives you beautiful blooms in the Spring. You’ve got to learn how to choose high quality bulbs, where is the best place to plant them, how to plant them so they are set up for success, and it all has to be done before it gets too cold and the ground freezes.
In this guide, we are covering all the ins and outs of basic bulb planting as well as some expert tips you probably haven’t thought about. Taking the time to get this step right will yield beautiful results after the winter thaw. Let’s get started.
Choosing the Right Bulbs
First, you need to find high quality bulbs for high quality flowers. You can order bulbs online, find them in the garden center of the supermarket, pick up a bag at Costco – they are available almost anywhere. You want to choose your bulbs from a reputable seller and one that you trust. Look for bulbs that are plump and firm, you can usually tell this by giving the bag a little squeeze. If you can’t see the bulbs, feel the bag to determine how big they are. You want large, firm bulbs. Bulbs that are small or soft and mushy are not going to yield great results. The bigger they are, the better.
Where to Plant
Even best, biggest, and healthiest bulbs will fail if they’re planted in the wrong spot. You need to take the time to pick the right spot for your bulbs. It may not be serving you well to plant in the same spot over and over. As your soil or landscape changes, so will your bulb location. Most bulbs do best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun a day) and well-drained soil. If you don’t have anywhere on your property with great soil, you may want to amend it with compost or other natural fertilizer to give your bulbs a good growing environment.
Fun Tip: You can actually plant bulbs using these same tips in a pot. Bulbs love pots and do fairly well. Use high quality potting soil and a plant that is deep enough to support the bulb roots. Keep it in a cool shed or garage during the winter and put it on your porch when it begins to bloom. You can enjoy beautiful potted blooms for your front porch as soon as spring arrives.
When to Plant
It’s easy to just say, “plant bulbs in October” and leave it at that. But the truth is, there is a little bit more to it than that. First of all, you want to plant them quickly after you buy them (which means if you already purchased a bag – you better act quickly). Second, you may way to wait until November if the weather is still relatively warm in October. It’s important that the soil is cool enough that your plants aren’t encouraged to grow too soon. If you’ve already ordered or planted your bulbs and it’s too soon to plant, store them in the fridge for a couple of weeks until it’s cooled down a bit more.
How to Plant
When it’s time to plant your bulbs you’re going to need a shovel, ruler, and gardening gloves. First, loosen up the soil and start to dig the holes for your bulbs at least three times their diameter. For example, you have a 3-inch-tall bulb, dig a hole 6 to 9 inches deep. Double check this with a ruler because eyeballing bulbs is a great way to miss out on their potential. You want to be sure they are deep enough to take hold, but not too deep – otherwise you’ll have lackluster blooms. Take the time to measure the depth and plant them correctly.
Bulbs should always be planted pointy side up. Bulbs are usually in a tear-drop shape, and the point should face up. If you can’t tell, or your bulbs are more like a round ball, look for roots or the appearance of roots and put that side down.
You can plant bulbs in any order, fashion, or design you’d like. Bulbs look especially nice in clusters of 5-10, but they can also look really nice in long straight rows. Use a little creative vision to create a spring display you can be proud of. Usually keeping bulbs 2-4 inches apart is plenty, but some specific varieties, like Allium, should be planted 6-inches apart.
Keep in mind, there are almost always exceptions to every planting rule, so check the planting directions that come with your bulbs for more information.
Protect Your Plants
Bulbs are like an all-you-can-eat buffet to critters. Squirrels and rabbits especially love to dig up freshly planted bulbs and see what treat lies in store for them. It’s like a holiday for pests. To protect your investment, add a layer of mulch to hide your bulb holes. Sometimes this is enough to dissuade the animals from digging deeper. If you have pests that are persistent, you can weigh down a piece of mesh or chicken wire over the soil to keep critters from digging. Once the bulbs start to sprout in early spring, you can remove the wire or mesh.
As with any planting, preventing weeds is necessary to protecting your blooms. Aside from being obnoxious, weeds steal nutrients from the soil and may attract insects or disease. The best way to prevent seeds is to spread mulch over your blooms. Give them 2-3 inches and you’ll enjoy the protection from the weeds (and pests) and the bulbs will still be able to easily push through it in the spring.
Planting spring bulbs is one of the most rewarding parts of gardening. It’s amazing to see your flowers bloom in the spring almost like saying thank you for your hard work months before. You can find a myriad of bulbs in all sizes, shapes, and colors.
Some gardeners like to plant fall bulbs in some areas and summer bulbs in others so that their garden beds are blooming all season long. Check to see what type of bulbs do well in your area and prepare your soil this fall for a world of color in the spring.