Bulbs are an easy and rewarding way to add spring color to your garden. But before you get started, there are a few tips you need to remember.
A well-drained spot is essential for bulbs, and you can improve soil drainage with a bit of compost or organic matter.
Prepare the Bed Ahead of Time
When it comes time to plant bulbs, it’s important that your bed be prepared. This will ensure that the bulbs are able to send out roots, allowing them to be established and to grow healthy.
Before digging the planting holes, add in a layer of compost or organic matter that will provide nutrients to the soil. Depending on your site conditions, you may also need to add peat moss for drainage.
After you have your soil ready, dig out your planting hole to the proper depth as per the bulb’s instructions on the package. Place the bulb pointed end up, then fill in around it with soil and rake gently to eliminate any air pockets.
It is best to not fertilize when planting bulbs. The reason is simple.
Bulbs are their own little plant factories that have the nutrients and structures they need to start growing and flowering. Fertilizing your bulbs will only rob them of those resources and may hurt or even kill the plants in the process.
Instead, work in a layer of compost or other organic matter to improve the soil and provide a good environment for healthy roots. Mix this into the soil and then plant your bulbs.
The first time you plant bulbs in the ground, make sure they get a good deep watering. It’s important that the soil is well-drained and loose enough to allow roots to grow.
Once you have the bulbs planted, keep them watered until they bloom and die back naturally. This should happen within a week or so.
Flower Power Tip: After the flowers fade, leave the foliage on the bulb to absorb sunlight and provide energy for next year’s growth. When the leaves begin to turn brown and papery, remove them safely with a gentle tug.
Bulbs need the green leaves to manufacture food that is stored in the bulbs for the next year’s bloom. The leaves also protect the bulbs from critters, like birds and rabbits.
Plant at the Right Depth
When planting bulbs, it is important to plant them at the right depth. Shallow-planted bulbs are susceptible to rot, scavenging animals, and sudden changes in weather that cause thawing or freezing.
The depth should be equal to two or three times the bulb’s height. Loosen the soil with a spade, then mix in organic materials such as compost.
Bulbs need well-draining soil and a neutral pH. If the soil has a high clay content or is compacted, amend it with organic material to improve drainage.
Plant with the Point Up
When planting bulbs and corms, it’s a good idea to plant with the point up. This will ensure the bulb grows upwards and doesn’t get stuck going down first.
Some tubers, like begonias and dahlias, do not have a clear top and bottom, so it can be tricky to know which way to plant them.
In general, all bulbs should be planted with the growing tip facing upwards. Exceptions include anemone corms and ranunculus, which should be planted with the point down.
Plant on the Side
When you plant bulbs, it’s best to do so with the growing tip facing upward. That way the stem will grow to the surface without having to correct course.
But sometimes it can be hard to tell which way the bulb’s pointy end is up. That’s why planting on the side works well in this case too.
If your soil is sandy or very compact, it’s a good idea to amend the bed with some compost before planting. This will give the bulbs a boost of nutrients and help the soil hold water better.