The flowers that come from bulbs are among the most beautiful in the garden. They include daffodils, irises, and tulips. Better yet, some come back year after year. Here’s how to plant them for the best results.
The soil should not be too wet or too sandy. Damp soil rots the bulb, and sandy soil doesn’t provide enough nutrients. The best soil for bulbs is loamy and well-drained. Plant the bulbs in full sun.
Making the Hole
If a few bulbs are planted, the gardener can use a trowel, a dibber or a unique tool for planting bulbs. If a lot of bulbs are going to be planted, they might want to dig a trench and plant many at once. Some gardeners who long for a more natural look toss bucketfuls of bulbs over the planting area, and plant them where they fall. This is also fun for kids.
One caveat about digging a trench is that different size bulbs have different planting requirements. Since the rule of thumb is to plant a bulbthree times as thick as it is long, bulbs will need to be planted at different depths. The depth is also determined by the type of soil. Bulbs are planted a bit less intensely in clay soils and more deeply in the sandy soil. If the soil is amended with a lot of compost or other nutrients, the bulb should be planted thicker than usual. Another rule of three states that bulbs should be three bulb-widths apart from each other. Bulbs grow best if they’re not crowded together.
Fertilizer for bulbs should be rich in phosphorus. Bags of fertilizer show the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in that order,so the gardener should buy fertilizer whose second number is higher than the first and the third. Toss the recommended amount of compost into the hole, then cover it with soil so the fertilizer won’t burn the emerging roots. Gardeners can also fertilize the bulbs as they’re growing.
Planting the BulbMaster gardeners are always surprised at how many people plant bulbs upside down! The bulb should be planted with its basal plate down. The pointed end of the bulb should point up. The basal plate should have good contact with the soil to keep the roots from drying out when they emerge. If a gardener can’t tell which end is up, they should lay the bulb on its side.
Cover the bulb, firmly press down the soil, water, add more soil, and tamp it down again. Another tip is for the gardener to plant a flag or a marker at the spot to remind them of where they put the bulb. Tags made of non-rusting metal such as copper are useful. They also add some needed nutrients to the soil.
When to Plant
Planting bulbs are fun and comfortable, and the reward is more than worth the effort.