Planting Bulbs for Spring Color
Frederick County Master Gardener
Bulb is a term loosely used to
include corms, tubers, tuberous roots and rhizomes as
well as true bulbs. They are broadly grouped into
spring-flowering (January-May) and summer-flowering
Many plants have a specialized
root part for storing food. True bulbs are a leaf or
flower bud encased in fleshy food storage layers
called scales. But depending on the type of root, they
might be called corms, rhizomes, tubers or bulbs. The
term "bulb" refers to any food-storing bulbous
underground plant growth. Most of the ones that are
hardy in this area should be planted in October or in
time to get them into the ground while soil
temperatures average 45-50 degrees.
Spring bulbs provide early
color before most annuals and perennials bloom.
Popular spring bulbs include crocus, tulips,
narcissus, daffodils and jonquils. Choose your bulbs
on the basis of color and flower size for specific
purposes. Small ones will create a natural look, and
large ones stand out as specimen plants.
Summer-flowering bulbs include
amaryllis, tuberous begonia, caladium, calla lily,
dahlia, gladiolus, lily and spider lily. These tender
summer-flowering bulbs are usually planted in the
spring. after the danger of frost. Lilies are best
planted in late fall. Your summer-flowering bulbs will
have to be dug and properly stored in a frost-free
location over the winter.
Most garden centers should be
well stocked. Some of the rarer bulbs might only be
avail-able by mail order.
Plant bulbs in forests,
fields, flower beds and containers, as long as they
will get six to eight hours of sunlight. They can be
planted in your lawn and still "season" in time to get
cut down with the first mowing in spring and not be
seen again until the same time next year. (To season
means that the leaves turn brown or yellow and the
plant has produced and stored enough food for next
year.) Early daffodils and crocuses are often planted
in this way. Trees do not block sunlight from early
bulbs if they season before the arrival of heavy
Most do fine without
suppmental fertilizer, but they do need light soil.
The better aerated and drained, with good moisture
holding qualities, the healthier the plant.
To prepare a planting area,
spread a 3-inch layer of compost. Compro is a good
material for bulb beds if you do not have your own
compost. Rototill the soil deeply (12-15 inches),
digging in the organic material.
If you are planting in a lawn,
use a handful of Compro in each hole. Bulb planting
tools are readily available at most garden and home
Tulips usually do not produce
enough food and would benefit from a balanced bulb
booster fertilizer. It can be incorporated when
tilling the soil.
Use bulb size as depth gauge,
and plant about three times as deep as the height of
the bulb. For example, if a daffodil bulb is 3 inches,
plant it 9 inches deep. For corms and true bulbs,
place the pointed side up and the flat-ter side down.
Water when planting, but be careful not to overwater.
Bulbs do not like wet feet.
Bulbs look best when planted
in drifts or waves of similar color in multiples of
eight or more of each variety. Plant your bulbs now
and enjoy for many springs to come.
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