Garden & Landscape Tips

'Tête-á-tête' daffodils and grape hyacinths make a fragrant, early blooming combo.
Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Info Center

Spring bulbs come packed with everything they need to bloom, so they are pretty much a sure bet in the garden. A few by the mailbox or dozens planted in drifts, spring bulbs signify renewal of the growing season.

Tulips (Tulipa) and daffodils (Narcissus) are early, mid or late-season bloomers, depending on the cultivar and type. In general, a bulb’s early season is February into March, mid-season is April and late-season is May. Many tulips and daffodils are also fragrant, such as Dutch hyacinths (Hyacinthus )and grape hyacinths (Muscari).

When it comes to long-term landscape plans, daffodils are much more reliable than tulips. Tulips tend to diminish over time, reducing the flower show yet sending up leaves year after year. Most gardeners plant tulips every year or two to make sure they have a good display.

Here are some bulb planting tips:

  • Spring blooming bulbs should be planted at least a month before the ground freezes to make sure they begin to get established.

  • Select bulbs that are firm, with no obvious disease or bruising. It’s all right if the skins are loose or partially missing. Buy bulbs as big as you can afford for the best show in spring. Bulbs are graded according to size, with the largest and highest quality labeled ‘top size.’ Grade B-bulbs are likely what you’ll find at discounted prices. This size is all right for naturalizing, or scattering in the landscapes or when large quantities are needed. The smaller bulbs will bloom the first year, but they will take a year or two to reach maximum flower size.

  • Pick a site that gets full sun, which is six or more hours a day. Early flowering bulbs can be planted in shadier conditions because they will bloom before trees are leafed out.

  • The site should have good drainage in winter and summer. Bulbs that stay wet for long periods will rot. Here’s an easy way to test for drainage:

    1. Dig a hole 12 inches wide and deep in the area you want to plant.
    2. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain.
    3. Once drained, immediately refill the hole and measure the depth with a ruler.
    4. After 15 minutes, measure the water depth with the ruler. Multiply by 4 to calculate how much water drains in one hour.

    If it’s less than one inch, the site is draining poorly. Ideally, the site should drain two to six inches of water an hour. Soils that drain too quickly may result in conditions that are too dry.

    To improve soil that drains poorly or too quickly, add an inch or two of compost or other organic matter. Amending or mulching with compost in spring and fall will improve soil quality and drainage in two to three years.

  • Rather than plant bulbs individually, cluster them in uneven numbers, or mix different types. Plant the earliest blooming bulbs, such as grape hyacinths, in the center of the cluster. On the perimeter, mix mid- and late season bloomers, such as daffodils, tulips or Dutch hyacinths. As the bulbs on the perimeter of the cluster grow and bloom, they will camouflage the foliage of the early bloomers. When planting in clusters, dig the whole area at once and place the bulbs in the hole.

  • Bulbs should be planted three times deeper than their height. If a bulb measures 2 inches tall, it should be planted at least 6 inches deep. Space bulbs 3 to 5 inches apart. Cover the bulbs with the soil from the hole. There’s no need to add fertilizer. Water well. After they bloom, the foliage must ripen, a process that replenishes the bulb for next year’s flowers. Mix bulbs with perennials, such as hosta, daylily or coral bells, which will camouflage the ripening foliage.

  • Squirrels avoid large, purple or white Dutch crocus (C. tommasinianus)
    Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Info Center

    Minor bulbs, such as crocus (Crocus), grape hyacinth (Muscari), scilla (Scilla) and glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) can be used as a floral carpet under trees and shrubs. These bulbs spread by self-sowing, so that year after year, they cover more and more of their territory. Although they self-sow, the bulbs would not be considered invasive.

  • Wait about six weeks after the bulbs have finished blooming before cutting off the yellow or brown foliage. Cut the ripened leaves as close to the ground as possible.

  • If you have a problem with deer, avoid planting tulips, which the animals see as their own special treats. Instead, plant daffodils, which reliably bloom year after year, and are disliked by deer. Squirrels like crocus, but they seem to avoid the large purple and white Dutch cultivars (Crocus tommasinianus).

So, before the winter comes, plant a few bulbs to brighten the season next spring!

For Customer Service Call 1-800-233-1067 or Email Us