I was out shopping the other day and what greeted my eyes – stands of spring bulbs for sale. Then you stop to look at the calendar and realize that it's almost the end of September and that the perfect time to plant spring bulbs is right around the corner. Bulbs are awesome and amazing plants to add to our gardens and a great way to jump start the spring season which makes me realize I need to start planning!
The earlier you buy or order your bulbs the better selection you'll have, but once they arrive make sure to keep them in a cool dry place until you're ready to plant. I usually tell people to have a plan before they buy plants, but I've done it, most gardeners have done it and impulse buy the pretty plants or the gorgeous bulbs – just be ready to find space for them when you get them home.
October is the best time to plant bulbs, right around when soil temperatures are about 60 degrees. If come Thanksgiving you find that random bag of bulbs hiding in the corner – still go out and plant them, these guys are survivors.
Most bulbs prefer a full sun to part shade location which leads many people to think about planting under deciduous trees. This is where I'll make a few caveats and addendums to those wanting to go that route. Scilla, Crocus, Winter Aconite, and Snowdrops do better than other bulbs when planted under trees with heavy root competition, especially trees such as Maple that have more fibrous root systems. If you do decide to plant within the dripline of a tree – DO NOT till up the soil to prepare the planting bed for the bulbs. Carefully dig amongst the roots and plant the bulbs. Tilling in the root system of the tree damages the roots and can cause stress.
It's recommend to add fertilizer to the planting hole or bed before planting. Those bulbs planted with fertilizer start off stronger than those that are not fertilized. Use a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet or a small handful of fertilizer per 10-12 bulbs. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as they can cause excessive foliage, poor flower color, or cause the bulbs to split. Make sure to mix the fertilizer in with the soil and do not place the bulbs directly on top of the fertilizer otherwise it can cause damage to the bulb and forming roots. Depending on the quality of soil in your garden, plan to add in organic matter such as compost to make the planting location even more suitable.
Planting depth is critical for spring bulbs, some are more sensitive to proper planting depth than others such as Daffodils. Plant your bulbs 2-3 times the height of the bulb. Larger bulbs are usually 6-8 inches deep, such as Tulips and Daffodils, whereas smaller bulbs like Crocus and Glory-of-the-Snow should be planted 3-4 inches deep.
If you have bulbs that you have wanted to move, make sure to wait till next year. You can dig and move or divide spring bulbs after foliage has turned yellowed and then replant them immediately.