Growing bulbs in the garden can be a fun and rewarding experience. They are easy to care for and come back year after year, making them a great option for those who don’t want to worry about replanting each season.
Plus, there’s nothing quite like seeing an array of beautiful blooms fill your garden! By following these simple steps and tips for success, you can have a garden full of colorful flowers in no time. Now let’s take a look at how to get started!
Spring vs. fall blooming bulbs
Before you dive in and start planting, it’s important to understand the difference between spring-blooming bulbs and fall-blooming bulbs. Spring-blooming bulbs are hardy, cold-tolerant, and need to be planted in late fall for them to bloom in the following spring.
Plant these bulbs in the fall:
On the other hand, fall-blooming bulbs (or tender bulbs), which are more susceptible to cold temperatures, need to be planted in the spring. These tend to prefer warm climates and will bloom in late summer or early fall.
Plant these bulbs in the spring:
- Elephant ears
Knowing what type of bulbs you’re planting is essential so you know what time of year to get them in the ground.
Preparing and planting your bulbs
It’s time to start prepping your garden for success. Planting bulbs is an easy and fun way to add some beauty to your outdoor space. With just a few steps, you will soon be able to enjoy the vibrant colors of blooming flowers. Here’s how:
- Choose the location – Select a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and has well-draining soil.
- Prepare the soil – Clear the planting area of stones and weeds, then rake the soil to loosen it and mix in compost and peat moss. You want to plant your bulbs in loamy, quality, well-draining soil for the best results.
- Choose bulb varieties – Think about what kind of flowers you would like in your garden. Consider things like climate and bloom time when selecting bulb types.
- Plant bulbs – Dig holes that are two to three times as deep as the length of the bulb. Place each bulb in its own individual hole, pointed side up. Be sure to leave some space between each hole so that your bulbs don’t overcrowd each other. Refer to the spacing guide on the bulb package for detailed instructions. Fill the hole with soil and press down lightly.
- Water- Water your bulbs well after planting so they can start to grow strong roots. Make sure you keep them watered throughout the growing season.
11 Tips for Growing Bulbs
You know the basics, but here are my expert tips to help ensure success.
Protect your bulbs from animals
Squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, rabbits, raccoons. These furry creatures may be cute but they are no friend to the garden. Unfortunately, many gardeners experience disappointment come spring when none of their fall-planted bulbs start peeking out of the soil. This isn’t a failure on the gardener’s part, but rather the result of hungry animals looking for a winter snack.
If you live in an area with a lot of animal traffic, consider adding a mesh or wire covering with 1/2-inch openings over your planted bulbs. This will allow the shoots to come through but will protect your bulbs over the winter. Remove the covering in the spring or when you start to see growth.
You can even utilize bulb baskets, specifically designed cages with lids to keep the critters away from your tasty bulbs.
Add a layer of mulch in cold climates
Cold-hardy, or spring-blooming bulbs need cold temperatures to bloom. However, harsh northern climates can sometimes bring too much of a good thing. Protect your bulbs from the elements by adding about 2 inches of mulch to your garden beds during the winter. Adding mulch will also help inhibit weed growth.
Dig up tender bulbs before frost
Tender bulbs like caladiums, gingers, and elephant ears will not survive cold temperatures. If you live in a colder climate, dig up the tender bulbs that you planted in the spring once they have stopped blooming in the fall.
Store them indoors over winter in a cool, dry place and plant them again in the spring. Keep them somewhere such as a garage or basement that stays around 40 to 55 degrees during winter. Pack your bulbs with shredded paper or slightly damp peat moss in boxes, or store them in breathable, mesh bags that are hung up to allow airflow. Don’t place your bulbs in an airtight bag, as this can increase the chances of rot.
Plant in groups for an eye-catching display
Garden bulbs look best in groupings, rather than planted in random spots throughout the garden. Planting several bulbs of the same variety close together creates a beautiful, vibrant display that is sure to draw attention. For a more natural look, plant in irregular groups, not rows.
Time your blooms for continuous color throughout the season
Choose bulbs that bloom at different times to make sure your garden is always in full bloom. Plant bulbs that bloom early in the season like tulips and daffodils, as well as late-blooming lilies and dahlias. This will ensure that you have blooms from spring all the way through fall.
Utilize companion plants
Bulbs look best when planted among other plants that are in bloom at the same time. Adding companion plants close to your bulbs will give the garden an extra pop of color and texture. Plus, taller plants will help hide the dying foliage of spent bulbs after the growing season.
Leave foliage intact until it turns yellow
You can cut the flower stem back after blooming but wait until the foliage turns yellow before cutting it off at soil level. Allowing the foliage to die back on its own is important for feeding and nourishing the bulb so that it can store enough energy to flower again next year.
Provider proper drainage
Most bulbs do not like wet feet and will rot in soggy soil. If your garden collects water after heavy rainfall, consider adding a layer of compost to help raise the soil level and improve drainage.
Pre-chill certain bulbs
There are some bulbs that require cold temperatures to bloom. Pre-chilling these bulbs in the refrigerator will help them produce a blooming flower when they are planted later on in the season. This is especially important if you live in a place with mild winter temperatures. Some plants that might require pre-chilling include caladiums, dahlias, gladioli, and cannas.
Don’t store bulbs in a fridge with fruit or vegetables, as produce emits gasses that could inhibit plant growth.
Buy quality bulbs
When buying bulbs, look for ones that are firm and have no signs of mold or rot. While you can order bulbs online, buying them in person will allow you to check for quality and make sure that the bulbs are disease free. You should also avoid bulbs that already show signs of sprouting, as they may not bloom when planted.
Try growing in containers
Garden bulbs can also be planted in containers. This is an ideal option for gardeners who lack the space for a traditional bed. Container gardening allows you to easily move your plants around and position them where they will receive the most light, water, and nutrients. Follow the same planting principles and make sure your pot is large enough to support the roots.
By following these tips, you will have a beautiful and vibrant garden full of colorful blooms that will last all season long. With a bit of preparation and planning, you will be able to create an incredible display of colors and textures that will bring beauty and joy to your garden for years to come.