I love the fresh, Easter egg colors of crocus popping up after a dreary winter. A small investment of money and effort in the autumn will reap big dividends the following spring and for many years to come. Here are a few pointers for the beginner and veteran bulb planter alike.
Scatter crocus all over your yard, lawn and garden beds. These small bulbs should be planted in groups of five or seven at a depth of three to five inches and the same distance apart. Peel back a section of sod in your lawn and throw in a handful. Dig shallow holes in flower beds, by your back door and next to the drive – you get the idea. By the following spring, you’ll have forgotten where you planted them and the bright Easter egg colors will surprise and delight you!
Daffodils naturalize very easily if you plant the right kind in the right place. In other words daffs, or narcissus as they are called in the bulb catalogs, thrive and will spread in well-drained soil and a good amount of sun. I like to plant these bulbs in groups of fives. If you’re going for the natural look, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of young children. Let them scatter the groups of bulbs and you do the planting. Their sense of whimsy will beat out our adult logic every time.
“Double Decker” planting means to layer bulbs vertically in the ground with the largest ones deepest. Use early, mid and late-blooming varieties and separate each with an inch of soil. This is an excellent technique to use to extend bloom time when your garden space is limited.
De-flower plants when they’re through blooming to keep the bulb’s energy from going into seed production. Another way to prevent this is simply to pick bouquets for enjoyment indoors.
Don’t cut off bulb foliage as it feeds the plants for flower production in the following year. It will usually take about six weeks until the leaves brown off and die. If you don’t want to look at the foliage while this process is going on, plant the bulbs among taller perennials which will do a nice cover-up job as they grow. If you’re trying to naturalize bulbs, clear an area, plant the bulbs and overseed with a wildflower mix which will hide the browning foliage with bright blooms.
Plant tulips deeper for longevity. Digging down one to two inches beyond the suggesting planting depth seems to increase the chance of the tulips blooming in successive years. Also, choose varieties noted for their perennial characteristics, and don’t forget to remove spent blossoms. A good bulb fertilizer applied before and after flowering will keep the plants’ energy high.
Foil hungry pests by planting desirable bulbs like tulips and crocus in hardware cloth baskets. I’ve read the recommendation to scatter sharp sand on top of planted bulbs, but that does nothing to deter our hungry chipmunks, squirrels, and mice. If you don’t want to bother with wire baskets, simply grow daffodils. Their taste and smell is repellent to the voracious critters.
Shady spots can still bloom with spring color. A number of bulbs including crocus and many of the smaller narcissus will grow and flower in woodlands and under shrubs. Planting under trees, except for evergreens, is not a problem because spring bulbs complete most of their above-ground cycle before the trees leaf out fully.
Color splash can be achieved by choosing one hue – red, yellow, pink, etc. – and planting bulbs of varying bloom times in one grouping. This will give you a show-stopping display for over a month.
Small bulbs are perfect for adding drifts of color to your landscape and providing a wonderful background to your larger tulips and daffodils. Iris reticulata, Chionodoxa, Scilla siberica, Puschkinia libanotica, Muscari (grape hyacinth) and Crocus all bloom at 4 to 6 inches. Most of them are carefree once planted in decent soil and will spread with abandon.
Warm area gardeners can choose from a number of bulbs that will provide spring and summer color in their locales. Gorgeous flower displays from bulbs aren’t just for northern gardeners anymore!