Planting Spring Bulbs

Marlene Spinosa
Adams County Master Gardener

Planting spring flower bulbs is one of the easiest and most satisfying garden projects you can do. All the nutrients needed for the flower are contained in the bulb. You can plant spring blooming flowers from mid-October until frost begins. I have planted bulbs as late as Thanksgiving in PA.

Spring bulbs need a period of cold in order to bloom. There are hundreds of varieties of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, and many more, that bloom early spring, mid spring or late spring. Daffodils are deer resistant and if planted properly, fertilized and divided when necessary, will last decades while tulips, crocuses, hyacinths and many others will not. They would need to be dug up before the spring rain can rot them or the summer heat and drought can damage them. Itís for this reason tulips are often planted annually.

Some will come back and Darwin type tulips planted deep have the best chance of doing this. Expect 40 to 60 per cent of your original amount to come back. Your soil should have fairly good drainage. I add bone meal to feed the bulbs in fall, and a bulb fertilizer in spring to energize blooms. Always plant bulbs at least at the recommended depth, never less than depth indicated. In winter the soil moves up and down as it freezes and thaws, often moving bulbs up. If they are planted too shallow, they can be exposed and freeze.

The variety of colors, forms and heights makes it easy to create a beautiful bed, small grouping or container for spring. Once youíve selected your bulbs at a garden center, through a catalog or online, all you have to do is dig, drop and cover. Most bulbs like full sun and some shade; colors will remain brighter if they have some shade. Bulbs can be planted in straight rows and sometimes are used to create flower mosaics, but generally in home gardens they look nicer planted in irregular curved areas.

Here are some tips about growing spring bulbs:

  • Buy a bulb planter or a garden trowel with inch measurements on it.
  • Use a kneeling mat when planting bulbs.
  • Place an old bath towel under kneeling pad. Itís a good place for weeds you dig up and it holds your tools and bulbs.
  • Draw up the layout of where you planted your bulbs.
  • Mark areas with names of bulbs planted,
  • Keep a spring bulb journal in paper or on the computer to record planting dates, fertilizing dates, bloom dates and the performance of the bulbs.
  • Plant large groups of single color bulbs for a big impact.
  • Mix up heights and species of bulbs in beds for variety.
  • Use extra spots in your perennial beds for spring bulbs.
  • Plant extra bulbs to be cut for flower arranging.
  • Take photos of your spring flower bulbs.
  • Plant spring bulbs with your children or grandchildren.
  • Plant some fragrant bulbs.

Spring flowering bulbs are easy to plant and maintain, and they will make you more aware of and interested in adding different types of flowers to your garden. Our bee population is declining because we plant fewer flowers than we used to. Your neighbors will love walking by your yard or porch and you will enjoy the arrival of spring.

 Read other fall related gardening articles

Read other articles by Marlene Spinosa