😓😒😮 This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.
There are 19 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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😓😒😮 With their bright, beautiful colors, bulb flowers are the perfect way to welcome spring, blooming as early as February in some regions. Easy to plant and capable of growing just about anywhere, these flowers will reward you with a gorgeous spring bloom if you plant them in the fall, before the ground becomes hardened with frost. Choose your bulbs, plan your garden carefully, plant your seeds and enjoy the fruits--or flowers?--of your labors.
Part 1Part 1 of 4:Choosing Bulbs Download Article
- 1Browse a catalog to see your bulb options. There are hundreds of varieties of bulbs to choose from, and most of them grow well in any region if you know how to care for them properly. You can buy them from your local nursery or order some from a catalog.XResearch source
- 2Choose crocuses or daffodils for an early-blooming garden. Crocuses are usually white or purple. Daffodils are typically yellow with a trumpet-like shape and sometimes have an orange starburst in the middle. Both are drought-resistant and bloom early, heralding the arrival of spring for your garden.XResearch sourceAdvertisement
- 3Plant hyacinths to enjoy their lovely scent. These low-maintenance flowers come in pink, purple or blue varieties, and have a clutch of round petals surrounding a central spike.XResearch source
- 4Go with tulips for a classic, colorful look. You can't go wrong with these long-lived bell-shaped flowers. They come in an endless variety of colors, so you can choose shades that complement your other flowers or your backyard decor.XResearch source
- 5Choose dahlias for a pop of color late in the season. Plant dahlias in the spring. With a rich range of colors and sizes, dahlias bloom beautifully in the summer and fall. Their spiky spray of petals make an angular, arresting addition to any garden.XResearch source
- 6Plant Dutch irises for elegant, intricate blooms. These tall, beautiful flowers come in many colors and will naturalize easily, multiplying rapidly each year. The plant combines three upright petals with three drooping ones for a unique, colorful flower.XResearch source
- 7Choose a hardy bulb for colder climates. Hardy bulbs are more common and need cold winter temperatures to thrive, so they are planted in the fall before the ground gets too hard. They’ll survive in the ground through the winter and will bloom again the following spring. Examples include crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.XResearch source
- 8Select tender bulbs for a brilliant but higher-maintenance bloom. Tender bulbs will also flower year after year but will stop growing at the first frost. In a cold climate, you can dig up your tender bulbs in the fall and store them through the winter, replanting them the following spring. Tender bulbs include dahlias as well as less common bulb varieties.XResearch source
- 9Mix and match bulb species and colors. When you're deciding what bulbs to buy, mix and match varieties and colors. Choose bulbs that flower at slightly different points in the season so you'll be able to enjoy the blossoms throughout the spring.
Part 2Part 2 of 4:Designing a Bulb Garden Download Article
- 1Find a sunny, dry spot. Your bulbs will need plenty of sunlight to bloom, although some, like tulips, should be protected from the full heat of the sun around noon. Check your seed package for any other sunlight conditions your bulbs might have.XResearch source
- If your bulbs need to be protected from the sun during the hottest part of the day, buy a garden shade structure to hang over your garden. You can also make your own garden shade by stringing a light-colored sheet up over your garden.XResearch source
- Your bulbs will start blooming before new tree leaves grow in spring, so shady areas under trees can work just fine.
- Avoid areas shaded by your house or another building.
- 2Choose a well-drained area. Waterlogged bulbs won’t grow, so you want to plant in soil that sifts through water quickly. To figure out how well your soil drains, dig a hole that’s about 12-18 in (30-35 cm) across and deep, then fill it with water. If it drains in 10 minutes or less, you have fast-draining soil. A soil that takes any longer than an hour to drain the water would be considered poor-draining.XResearch source
- 3Improve your soil’s drainage by using raised beds or adding compost to the soil. If you find that your soil doesn’t drain well, buy or construct your own raised garden beds with wood, making sure there are holes in the bottom to allow drainage. You could also add compost, mixing it into the soil well with your fingers or a small shovel.XResearch source
- 4Prepare and loosen the soil with a hoe. Rake out any rocks and weeds and make sure the area is clear and the soil loose.
- 5Increase or decrease the soil’s pH as needed. Bulbs grow best in soils with a neutral pH around 7.0. To increase your pH level, use a limestone spread, either in powder or pellet form. To lower your pH level, use a pelletized sulfur product. You can mix the products into the top 6 inches (15 cm) of ground, or simply lay them on top and allow them to percolate down naturally.XResearch source
- Bulbs are hardy and will grow well in nearly all types of soil. You shouldn’t need to add any specific nutrients to your soil, although you can add a bit of compost as you cultivate the soil, especially if it's especially dry or sandy. Consult your seed packet or local gardening store if you have any questions.
- 6Sketch out a rough plan for your garden. Do you want to place particular colors by each other, like in a rainbow or flag pattern? Do you want a spray of tulips by your mailbox, or a curving row of daffodils along a stone walkway? Use a pencil and paper to design a pattern before you start laying down your bulbs.
Part 3Part 3 of 4:Planting the Bulbs Download Article
- 1Plant spring-blooming bulbs in the fall. Once the soil and temperatures have cooled down, start planting your spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths.XResearch source
- 2Plant summer-blooming bulbs in the spring. These late bloomers are more tender and less likely to survive the frost. Wait until winter has passed to start planting summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias and gladioli.XResearch source
- 3Dig holes for the bulbs and plant them at the right depth. A general rule of thumb is to plant in a hole that is 2-3 times deeper than the bulb’s height. Check the seed package for any specific instructions or exceptions.XResearch source
- If you have a bulb that measures 3 in (7.6 cm) tall, for example, you’d need to dig a hole about 6-9 in (15.2-22.8 cm) deep into the soil.
- 4Space your bulbs properly. Bulbs can generally be planted quite close together, and they tend to look better that way, too! If you want them to grow in clumps, dig a larger hole to accommodate more than one bulb.XResearch source
- For large patches of bulbs, space the holes a few inches apart, and plant as many as you want.
- For a natural grouping effect, try tossing a handful of bulbs on the ground and planting them right where they fall. Don’t worry if the spacing isn’t all even, or if some bulbs seem quite close together, as this will only add to the easy, natural look.
- 5Plant the bulbs pointy-side up. Tear-shaped bulbs should planted with their pointy side facing up, while flat bulbs can go into the ground with the flat side up. Planting them correctly will ensure that the roots grow down into the ground instead of up towards the surface.XResearch source
- 6Fertilize with bone meal or superphosphate. Mix a bit of one fertilizer into the bottom of each hole. Once the bulbs are in their holes, you can add about 5 tablespoons (73 mL) of soluble fertilizer or bulb fertilizer, as well as two cups (0.5 L) of bone meal for each ten square foot plot. Fertilizing will encourage healthy flower growth year after year, but don’t worry if you can’t get to it before you plant. Bulbs are hardy and are still likely to grow even without any fertilizer.XResearch source
- 7Cover the bulbs with soil and mulch. Refill the holes with soil and pat them gently to make sure the soil is packed. Water the area, then cover the soil with a layer of leaves or another type of mulch to protect the bulb beds.XResearch source
Part 4Part 4 of 4:Enjoying Bulb Flowers Download Article
- 1Wait for spring. If you plant bulbs in the fall, you can forget about them until spring. You won’t need to water them through the winter unless you live in an area with low precipitation. Keep an eye out once the ground thaws and the weather starts to turn warm; they’ll be sprouting soon!XResearch source
- 2Water the flowers as they bud and start to bloom. Water well when the flower buds first appear on the plant; the water will have to reach down to the bud, about 6-8 in (15-20 cm) in the ground. Through the budding, blooming and early foliage stages, give the bulbs about 1 in (2.5 cm) of water per week, if they don’t receive that amount in rainwater.XResearch source
- 3Let them grow or cut them to enjoy indoors. Bulbs are abundant but have a relatively short growing season. They look beautiful outside, or you could cut them for an indoor bouquet that will last a few days in a vase of water.
- 4Avoid trimming the green foliage after the bloom. Fight the temptation to mow the leftover foliage once the flower has bloomed, because the flower will need it to grow successfully in the following year. The leaves will allow the plant to continue creating and storing energy for next year’s bloom.XResearch source
- 5Enjoy them again next year. Many varieties of bulbs grow for several years in a row. Rest up, because in 2-3 years, it will be time to plant new bulbs once again!XResearch source
- To promote annual growth, fertilize the bulbs after their first year in the ground. Use specially made bulb fertilizer and follow the bulb fertilizer package directions. You can also work cow manure into the soil, or sprinkle it over the flower bed.
- QuestionWhich way should bulbs be planted?Try to bury the bulbs with the pointed end facing up. However, if you can't tell which end is pointed, plant the bulb on its side and the bulb will straighten itself out.
- QuestionWhen should I plant the bulbs?Plant spring-blooming bulbs the previous fall before the soil freezes. Fall-blooming bulbs can be planted in the spring of the same year.
- QuestionCan you plant bulbs in a raised garden?Yes. As long as the bulbs are planted 2-3x deeper than their height and are covered with a good layer of soil and some mulch at the to protect the bulbs and keep the soil from washing away.
- QuestionHow many tulip bulbs should I plant in each hole?This depends on how big your want your tulip cluster to be. Each bulb will produce one flower. Bulbs can be planted close together in a bunch, as long as the hole is big enough for one layer of bulbs. Also make sure your hole is about 2-3x deeper than the bulbs height.
- QuestionAfter the flowers have finished flowering, how soon can I cut down the green leaves that remain?Community AnswerIt's best to let the leaves die naturally. They will provide the plant with nutrients during their dormant period.
- QuestionHow would I know if a bulb is upside down?Community AnswerIf you're buying bulbs from the store, most of them will have green shoots already poking out. You want to plant the bulb with the green pointing up. If they have no green, look for the side with circles or holes. These will indicate where the shoots will appear. Again, plant the bulb with the circles facing up.
- QuestionHow deep should I plant daffodils?Community AnswerOptimally, the tips of outdoor bulbs should be 2-4 inches from ground level (GL). Small bulbs should be nearer GL while larger ones will survive the deeper depth. The greater the distance the growing plant has to go to reach GL, the more it draws on the reserves of the bulb. For a bulb to survive more than one or two seasons it should not draw on its nutrient reserves more than is necessary.
- QuestionCan you make a bulb planting into a smiley face or any other simple shapes?Community AnswerYes, as long as you respect the distance away from each other for each bulb when planting, which differs with flower type. Map out the design in the soil before planting with a stick or pole, then simply follow that design and the proper planting distances to cover the area. It's a good idea to mark it with stakes or something, to avoid accidentally planting other plants there and spoiling your design. The stakes can be removed when the flowers start to grow.
- QuestionCan I plant bulbs in water in a vase?Community AnswerNo; they will rot. You can keep the root slightly submerged in water though, but you should change the water every 3 days.
- Bulbs are bulb-shaped. Some kinds of corms, rhizomes, and tubers are also known as “bulbs.” Each type is shaped differently, but all store energy for next year's growth like a bulb. Tulips and daffodils are considered true bulb plants, while freesia and some varieties of Iris are corms. The Canna lily and some irises are known as rhizomes. Daylilies or tiger lilies are considered tuberous plants.
- In warmer climates, bulbs may need to be chilled before planting. If vermin is not a problem, and the garage is cold, place the bulbs in the garage for chilling.
- Plant masses of the same type of bulb for a beautiful garden. A sea of blooming daffodils sings spring.
- If you're planting bulbs in a large area, use a shovel and dig a trench. Drop the bulbs into the trench, making sure the bulb tips are facing upward, then cover with soil.
About This Article
If you want to plant flower bulbs, find a dry, sunny spot in your garden. If water tends to pool on your soil after it rains, build a raised bed or add compost to your soil to improve the drainage. Rake out any rocks and weeds and make sure the soil is loose. If you’re planting flowers to bloom in the spring, plant the bulbs in the fall, or plant summer-blooming bulbs in the spring. Dig a hole about 2-3 times deeper than the height of the bulb, then plant the bulb in the hole with the pointed side up. Cover the bulbs with soil and mulch, and water the area. Keep reading for tips from our horticulture reviewer on picking the perfect bulbs!