Planting Spring Bulbs

Autumn days may have you thinking of the red and orange hues of changing leaves, but if you want the bright pinks and yellows of spring, fall is the time to get those bulbs in the ground! Now is the time to start to watch for spring bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, at your local garden centers and nurseries. Once you purchase them, you need to store them in a cool, dry place, like a garage or basement, until it’s time to plant them.

When to Plant

The best time it plant bulbs is when night temperatures begin to reach around 45°F, which usually happens in October. If you plant bulbs too early, they may rot in warm soil.

Where to Plant

Bulbs can be planted in full sun or partial shade. Consider planting them in the spaces between ferns, hostas, and other perennials. Bulbs also do well when planted under deciduous trees because they generally bloom before the trees leaf out. Keep in mind that bulbs prefer well-draining soil.

How to Plant

Bulbs should be planted in drifts or groups of three or more.  Before planting, work organic matter and some sharp sand into the soil to provide good drainage. How deep you plant bulbs depends on the type, so it’s best to follow the planting instructions on the bulb’s packaging. Generally, tulips, alliums, and daffodils should be planted 7 to 8 inches deep. Hyacinths should be planted 6 inches deep, and crocus and most minor bulbs 3-4 inches deep. Examine the bulbs before planting and discard any that are soft and squishy or desiccated and wrinkly. Make sure you place the bulbs right-side up. The bottom of the bulbs will be slightly flat and may have some dried roots. The tops of the bulbs will be slightly pointed. For some kinds of bulbs, particularly small crocus, it can be harder to tell which side is the top. If you aren’t exactly sure, you can plant them sideways. The flower and roots will right themselves as they start growing. Cover the planted bulbs with soil and pack it lightly. Water the bulbs generously once, and then cover the area with a thin layer of leaf or bark mulch. You don’t have to continue watering them, but the initial watering will settle the soil and stimulate root growth.

Pest Problems

If squirrels or chipmunks are digging up your freshly planted bulbs, you can cover the area with a layer of chicken wire to deter them.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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