You’ll thank yourself next spring
Article by Chris Kennedy, MCH, Landscape Designer and Owner of Kennedy’s.
We’re all wired for instant gratification, aren’t we? 24-hour news, Google answers to any question (will dog hair sprinkled around my hostas keep rabbits from eating them? Not ours!) overnight shipping and Netflix. As things get faster, we get slower at recognizing when we need a little down time.
And sometimes the only cure for an always-on world is the slow therapy of being outside and letting something grow. Bulbs take their own time, there’s no rush delivery or skipping ahead. Innovation was built into bulbs and the best thing you can do is get them in the ground and let them do their job. It only takes a few minutes to dig a few holes. Put on your headphones and get lost in your own little world.
When spring rolls around, you may have forgotten you planted them. Snow and ice can do that to a person. But then the first hyacinth or crocus busts through a thin layer of ice and you are a hero. Because everyone knows you just signaled the start to spring with your hard work this fall.
HERE’S HOW EASY IT IS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
1. Choose healthy bulbs.
We got you covered at Kennedy’s. We are not mail order, you get to see you bulbs first hand. We only carry quality bulbs from Holland. Always avoid anything dried out or mushy.
2. Choose an appropriate location.
Most flowering bulbs prefer sunny spot to maximize flower power. However, some bulbs do well in shade. See our shady bulb list below.
Most bulbs do not to be planted in low areas of the yard that tend to stay wet for long periods of time. A well-drained soil will prevent bulbs from rotting in cool weather.
3. Plant early enough to give your bulbs time to grow roots before it freezes.
Ideally plant before mid-November to give your bulbs more time to begin growing healthy roots.
4. Pointed side up.
The pointed end is the stem. You may even be able to see some shriveled roots on the flatter side. If you can’t really tell, don’t worry about it. The stem will find its way to the surface sooner or later.
5. Plant at depth of 3 times their diameter.
Small bulbs can be planted to a depth of 3-4 inches. For a larger bulb like daffodils, plant about 6-8 inches deep.
6. Encourage strong root growth.
Mix Espoma Organic Bulb-Tone or similar into the soil at the bottom of the hole when you plant. Bone meal works too. This will encourage strong root growth.
7. Keep them safe.
Tulips come in the widest range of colors, but many people find them to be the first bulbs eaten by deer and other rodents. Now that you have been warned, here are some tips to protecting them and any other susceptible bulbs. The bulbs themselves can be eaten by ground boring rodents. Some people protect them by mixing a gritty material in the hole or planting them in little cages made of hardware cloth. That seems like too much work for me! You can try sprinkling easier, such dusting a repellent such as Repels All in the planting hole. After the tulips grow the foliage could be eaten too. Try make the foliage and flowers taste or smell bad. We suggest spraying Plant Skydd or a similar Deer/Animal Repellent repellent on the foliage as it emerges from the ground and every other week until the bulbs finish blooming for best results.
Or stick with daffodils and other critter resistant bulbs. See the list below of deer and rodent resistant bulb options.
8. Top them off.
Replace the soil on top of the bulbs, then water generously to help them settle and to close any air pockets. In a normal autumn Mother Nature will water your new bulbs enough, but watering them occasionally will help if we’ve had a dry fall.
A FEW INSIDER TIPS
The Wow Factor:
Bulbs most dramatic when planted in clumps or drifts. I strongly suggest throwing aside you bulb digger and grab the shovel. Digging holes wide 6-8″ wide will allow you to place 5-7 of the same bulbs in the hole. Space them evenly before covering. We suggest a string of holes every couple feet or so and then when they bloom you have a rows of colorful clumps in bloom.
Where to Plant:
Finding a place that can be seen in well travelled areas is best to maximize your reward of the efforts.
I prefer to plant bulbs between medium sized perennials that bloom later, which is most of them. Bulbs typically come up and bloom before most perennials get going. Then when the bulbs are finished and the foliage starts to look tired the perennials help cover it up.
I try to avoid planting bulbs in areas where I plant annuals later in the spring. Bulbs are then in the way and sometimes you dig them up by mistake since you can’t remember where they are. If they are between perennials they are in a safer spot.
I have heard of people planting multiple types of bulbs in the same hole. This might work in pots, but I think in the landscape it is better to plant lower growing bulbs closer to the front of your garden beds and taller bulbs behind them in a layered affect. Different bulbs bloom at different times so pay attention to that as well, but also don’t over think it. Ask us for more pointers.
Mark your plantings:
To make sure you don’t disturb bulbs by trying to plant something else in the same spot, mark where and what you have planted. Some people use golf tees to help them remember where they are planted.
When your bulbs have finished flowering, let the foliage dieback naturally. Resist the temptation to cut it back while still green, but floppy. The bulb needs this time to photosynthesize and make food reserves to produce next year’s flowers. When dried and spent, cut stalks to ground level. Like I said above later blooming perennials help hide some of this ugly foliage or take attention away with their flowers.
If bulbs need to be moved because a nearby plant has encroached on it’s space, they can be moved relatively easily. It is hard to move them in the fall since you don’t know where they are. I have moved daffodils while in bloom in the spring, it’s not ideal since some roots might be damaged and they might not flower as well or as long, but I was willing to sacrifice length of bloom this year for putting in a better place long term. Ideally you move them after flowering and as the foliage is losing it’s green.
Some bulbs will spread and increase like a groundcover. Others are clump forming with the clumps slowly getting wider each year. If a clump has been there for years and years and getting plenty of sun, but they are not performing as well as past years, you can try dividing the clumps to improve performance. Just divide the clump with with a shovel as if you are cutting a pie into 2-3 pieces. This is best/easiest to do after they bloom and just and as the foliage loses it’s green.
Bulbs for shade:
Deer & Critter Resistant Bulbs:
Approximate Planting Depth:
3- to 4-inch planting depth
- Glory of the snow
- Grape hyacinth
5- to 8-inch planting depth
Watch for more blogs and resources on proper planting technique, water and fertilizing guidelines, pruning tips and so much more. Until then, you’ll find some great resources here. We live for this stuff!