Now is the time to begin thinking about planting spring flowering bulbs, like daffodils, tulips and crocus. Spring bulbs are planted in the fall since they send out roots in cool soil conditions. September is the time to design, purchase, and prepare the soil for planting your spring flowering bulbs. Summer flowering bulbs, like gladiolus, lilies and canna planted in summer will not be part of your fall planting plan (or this article).
Spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall once the soil temperatures have fallen below 50° but before it freezes. Plant your bulbs sometime between October 15 and Thanksgiving. You can plant as long as the soil is not frozen and you can dig. It is better to give bulbs time to grow roots before the ground freezes.
Bulbs should be planted in full sun (at least 6 hours a day). When picking a place to plant bulbs, remember that bulbs will grow and flower before the leaves are out on the trees. It is possible to plant them under trees. Tree roots will compete with the bulbs for water and nutrients. It may be necessary to supplement both if planted under a tree with fibrous roots.
Bulbs prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. The only way to determine soil pH is with a soil test. It will also help with soil nutrient needs.
Well-drained soil is essential. Bulbs cannot take wet soil. Soil amendment and bed prep are critical to keeping your bulbs healthy and beautiful for years to come. Digging and amending the planting bed with compost, peat moss, or organic material is the best way to achieve your objective. Be stingy on this step but the bulbs will not preform as you would like.
Depending on the type of bulb in your plan, plant the bulbs 5 to 8 inches deep (measured from the bottom of the bulb). The rule of thumb is 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. Bulbs should be planted with its ‘nose’ up and basal plate down. Yes, this means right side up. They will grow and flower if planted upside down but they will be delayed. They usually right themselves over time.
Dig out the soil in the bed to a minimum depth of 12 inches (18 inches would be better). Store the loosened soil on a tarp and amend it with compost, peat moss, or some form of organic matter. Fill the bed with the amended soil to the depth of the bottom of the bulb.
This is the time to fertilize the bulbs so the fertilizer is at the roots (more later). Work it into the soil to keep from burning the roots.
Lay out the bulbs. Bulbs make the best impact when planted in drifts. Bulbs planted too close will require digging and dividing more frequently. Place them about the same distance apart as the depth.
Once fertilized and placed, you can bury the bulbs and water the bed thoroughly to settle the soil around the bulbs. Mulching the bed will help retain moisture, reduce weeds and moderate soil temperature fluctuations.
Bulbs need extra phosphorus at planting to encourage root growth. Phosphorus does not move much in the soil so adding it at planting at the depth of the bulb is important. You can use bone meal (pH of soil must be amended to below 7) or superphosphate at the rate recommended on the label.
Now that your bulbs are planted, you only have to wait until spring to enjoy a spring display. Planted properly, you will be enjoying this display for years.
If you have any questions about bulb planting or care, contact your county OSU Extension professional or Sara Creamer at 740-335-1150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fayette County Master Gardener Volunteers will be training a class beginning January 29, 2019. Please contact Sara Creamer at the address above if you would like information on how to become a Master Gardener.