Plant Bulbs Now for Spring Bloom

'Purple Sensation' allium about to bloom. They make a dramatic statement in the spring garden.

‘Purple Sensation’ allium about to bloom. They make a dramatic statement in the spring garden.

Late September and early October are the perfect time to plant bulbs for spring bloom, and while the weather will be cooler this week, it’s still pleasant enough for bulb planting. When you plant bulbs in fall, you are making an investment in your future garden.

I’ve planted bulbs as late as Oct. 20, but most sources recommend planting in late September and early October because bulbs need some time to grow roots before the ground freezes.

There are dozens of choices among spring-blooming bulbs – from tiny, early blooming crocuses to giant allium that bloom in June. Tulips and daffodils come in many colors, but consider planting some of the so-called minor bulbs, too. I love the puff-ball blooms of allium and the tiny starlike flowers of glory of the snow (Chionodoxa). Bulbs look best planted in large swaths or even naturalized in the lawn. Wherever you plant them, the goal is to have a full, lush look that seems to have sprung up naturally.

Last fall, we offered some tips on how to plant bulbs that might be useful.

When choosing bulbs, look for firm, largish bulbs that aren’t nicked or soft. Some gardeners view bulbs as annuals and expect to replace them every year. Tulips, particularly, tend to poop out after a few years, but many bulbs will bloom and bloom and bloom, year after year. So, don’t be too quick to replace them. When buying bulbs, though, remember that bigger is better, and this may be one case where spending more for high-quality bulbs makes sense.

When picking bulbs, consider bloom time to create a flow of color throughout the spring and into June. If you know you have burrowing critters in your yard (voles, for example), you may want to plant daffodils, which they are less likely to devour.

For the biggest impact, plant lots of bulbs – like dozens or hundreds. This sounds like a huge job, but there is an easy way to plant clusters of bulbs. Decide where you want to bulbs to grow, then dig a hole the correct depth for the bulb (the information will be on the package) and wide enough to hold 10 to 20 bulbs. For ease in planting, put the soil on a tarp or in a bucket. Then, place the bulbs randomly in the hole, spacing them according to package directions, and re-cover with the soil. Water well, then move on to the next hole. Using this method, I’ve planted 100 bulbs in under an hour.

You can also used the “toss and plant” method, in which you throw the bulbs on the area you want to cover and then plant them one-by-one where they land. This works well for planting squill and other tiny bulbs in a lawn.

Fall is such a pleasant time to plant, and when you plant bulbs now, you are investing in next year’s garden, an investment you will appreciate next April.

Plant minor bulbs such as squill for naturalizing.

Plant minor bulbs such as squill for naturalizing.


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