Ecology + Design

Planting Flower Bulbs: What To Do, Mistakes To Avoid

Planting Flower Bulbs: Pure Joy

There’s only one thing more rewarding than watching your garden come to life in a blaze of color after a long cold winter–it’s seeing this all happen without any effort on your part over the last few months.

Flower bulbs placed in the ground are like little time-activated capsules, and now (fall) is the time to set your automatic spring garden in motion. Gardening in the fall is cooler, requires less watering…there’s almost no down-side to bulb planting. And the cold months that bulbs spend buried in your garden “wintering over” actually make for a more brilliant display in the spring.



Planting Flower Bulbs: When to Plant

The best time to plant bulbs is from the beginning of October until about 6 weeks before the ground freezes. Wait until the night temperatures average between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant New Flower Bulbs

Be sure to get new bulbs. Those bulbs that never got planted last year and have spent a year in the garage are long gone. It will be a waste of time to put them into the ground. Don’t even think about it! And, be sure to plant all the bulbs you get this fall. They won’t have a second chance.

Planting Flower Bulbs: Don’t be too quick to throw out the package!

Here’s a little problem to avoid: Try not to separate the bulbs from their packaging until they’re in position ready to plant in your garden. Various colors of the same variety (tulips, daffodils…) have bulbs that look exactly the same. You’re a goner if you throw out the label before planting!

Where Do Your Flower Bulbs Love to Grow?

And, if you want your bulb garden to flourish, don’t plant it under your favorite huge shade tree. Most bulbs do best when they’re planted in a sunny spot. Remember that label you saved? It probably says something about the amount of light those particular flower bulbs need.

Here’s a curious fact: Plants that come from a location in the world that’s below sea level (Holland) don’t like to grow in soggy soil. Imagine that! So, make sure the place you plant your bulbs has good drainage.

Planting Flower Bulbs: Prepare the Soil

Take time to prepare the soil so that your flower bulbs have a fighting chance to work their way to the surface. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 8 inches. If you really want to be kind to your bulbs, mix in a little organic matter. Those leaves you shredded (see below) would make excellent organic compost mixed into the soil. Your flower bulbs will richly reward you next spring. If you add a little fertilizer, perhaps bone meal, your bulbs will worship you as king of the universe.

And, don’t forget to remove rocks from the garden. How would you like to come to life, thinking everything was amazing, only to hit your head on a rock? Bad Bad! There’s only one thing worse: Never, never plant the bulbs with their heads facing down. They’ll try to get to China, but alas, they’ll never make it. The pointy side, as with many people you know, is the head. If you’re not sure which end is the head, plant the bulb on its side. Most bulbs are smart enough to figure out what to do in that case.

How Deep Do You Plant Flower Bulbs?

How deep to plant your flower bulbs? As a rule, the smaller the bulb, the closer it needs to be to the surface. Plant larger bulbs (allium, iris, tulips, daffodils…) about 8 inches deep. Plant smaller bulbs (crocus, grape hyacinth…) about 4 inches deep. If in doubt, be sure to read the label you saved for this important moment.

Bulbs successfully planted? Now LOOSELY fill in the space above the bulb. Don’t pack the soil down (refer to our discussion about rocks above).

Watering Your Flower Bulbs

At this point every gardener wants to water the little guys. That’s okay. It actually helps activate them. However, remember what we said about too much water. The northeastern U.S. is fairly moist in the Fall, so unless we’re in some kind of weird climate-change drought, an occasional watering after a few sunny days will probably do the trick.

Where To Get Free Mulch For Your Flower Bulbs

Oh yes, about that mulch: Those leaves falling from your favorite shade tree (mentioned above) are meant to fertilize the ground they land on rather than going into some far away land fill. It’s pretty easy to help that process along. Here are some ideas:

Use a mulcher mower rather than bagging the leaves and having them hauled off.



Pile the leaves in some forgotten corner of your yard and let them mulch for about a year, then dig them into your bulb garden next fall.

Instant Gratification Method:

Hire us to come over with our awesome Bear Cat Shredder (one of the few such shredders in Westchester County) and turn brush and leaves into instant mulch that you can use this fall!

Call Green Jay Landscape Design: 914-560-6570



Victory! You’ve Successfully Planted Your Flower Bulbs. Now What?

Now that you’ve successfully planted your flower bulb garden, sit back and expect a dazzling display of color and beauty next spring. Nearly zero effort! Would that raising kids could be this easy!

The only thing easier than planting a brilliant bulb garden is hiring a professional to design and plant your spectacular bulb garden, timed to bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall months.



Jay Archer, President (and Bulb Enthusiast)



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