Monday, September 27, 2010

Bulb Planting Time Is Here

My serious garden club met last week and had a serious workshop on fall bulb planting.  The person who spoke is a purchaser and bulb expert for a local nursery.  She was very knowledgeable and so excited about her favorite seasonal bulbs.


This is one of my favorite early daffodils.  It is similar to Tete-a-Tete but blooms for a much longer time period.

One of her favorite bulbs is Allium Schubertii  which is so large I asked what she did with the leftover spiked dried blooms.  She says friends of hers spray paint them white like snowflakes.

Allium Schubertii

When planting tulips beyond the species tulips it is recommended that they be planted 10" deep in our area (zone 5) to increase chances of them returning the following year.  I have to admit that I rarely plant anything this deep and do not count on my tulips coming back.  I have had better luck with the Emperor variety but they do not return with their typical large blooms. 

As far as rabbits are concerned, she told us if we walked over the area we had just planted it would erase the scent of the bulbs.  I'll try this, but it sounds too simple!  I have used chicken wire with plant stakes (this definitely works) and a granular product called Plantskydd for Critters (this product works well on the squirrels who are the main bulb diggers in the fall - works also on the rabbits in the spring but not as well on the babies who do not mind a bad smell).

Orange Emperor Tulips

Soil is a major factor in regard to tulips being return visitors, it must be rich  and loamy, not solid clay, with some bulb fertilizer mixed in (Espoma Bulb Tone was her recommendation).  Throw a little in the planting hole, mix with soil or put a little on top of the soil after planting and filling the hole.  Tulip leaves should be left on the plant until they turn yellow or pull out of the soil easily.

Daffodils are another story, they are not quite as fussy but do benefit from being fertilized.  If your daffodils have ceased blooming profusely then they need to be divided.  They form many bulblets around the main bulb and just send up leaves and maybe one flower.  I had to divide Mount Hood last year and am not sure what to expect his year in regard to bloom.  When done blooming, daffodil leaves should be left standing, not braided, tied, cut or buried under dirt or mulch.  I have gotten much better about overplanting bulbs with plantings that cover the bulb leaves. 

Mount Hood Daffodil

Hyacinths are also prone to splitting into several florets instead of that compact large bloom when they are newly planted.  Our presenter said that this is also due to them not being planted deep enough.  I am afraid I am a big offender of the not deep enough crowd.  I guess I am too lazy to dig ten inches deep!

In order to have a good start for bulbs the soil needs to be cooled down to 60 degrees before planting.  I am not always planting in regard to soil temperature as I plant when it is comfortable for me to be working outside.  It has never been a problem in regard to bloom whether I plant in September or December (you can plant bulbs up until the ground is frozen)

Early Sensation Daffodil (blooms very early and for about three weeks)

Amaryllis and Paperwhites were dealt with briefly and no mention was made of the Christmas variety which blooms earlier than any of the regular amaryllis.  Check all of these bulbs out on and 

Our presenter recommended that the amaryllis bulbs be saved from year to year for rebloom.  After the plant is finished blooming she said to let the leaves grow for awhile and then cease watering and put in a dark area.  When you notice that green tip beginning to form again at the top of the bulb, then it is time to begin watering again and give the bulb some light.  It was recommended that the amaryllis be planted in good potting soil half way down with the other half of the bulb out of soil.  Amaryllis will also grow in pebbles and water but for holding over for rebloom soil is a better medium.  Paperwhites are a one-time bloom plant, enjoy and throw away.

Christmas Amaryllis (There are many colors to choose from)

Paperwhites Ziva

If you live in a southern climate many bulb companies will ship pre-cooled bulbs.  Happy planting!


Bernie said...

I just wish I could make use of all the great information in this post ... whilst I did have fun with my bulb experiment this year, it was not all that successful. Unfortunately, our Winter was very, very mild this year ... I'm tempted to say hot, actually! But I did enjoy the few flowers that bloomed.

You're so lucky to be able to grow these beautiful plants ... my favourite has to be the Hyacinths and Paperwhites!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Bernie, I wonder if your bulbs would work if you ordered them pre-cooled or cooled them yourself in the refligerator? Or, maybe you are too warm for bulbs to have any blooming time.

However, both the amaryllis and paperwhite can be planted inside your home and should bloom just fine no matter what the outside temps.


RainGardener said...

Very helpful information Eileen, thank you. Guess I'd best go get some fertilizer for the tulips I'm going to plant. I haven't really done tulips since we moved here 20 years ago, planted about 200 and maybe 5 showed up. We think critters ate them. But I'm going to do a huge tub this year to put on a stump from a tree we just fell.

Anonymous said...

Dear Eileen, This is a most useful and comprehensive guide to autumn bulb planting.

For me, although I cannot have enough Alliums or Tulips, any golden Daffodils are too many! I do love the Paperwhite Narcissi, however, especially when forced in pots for the Christmas dining table.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi RG,

I cannot plant in tubs or containers because it gets too cold here. You could put chicken wire over your container so the critters can't get to it.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Edith, I know you do not like the yellow daffodils, so I am sure you would like Mount Hood and Thalia. I have grown both of these and they are both very pretty.


joey said...

Great tutorial, Eileen. I love bulbs but must admit, hate planting them yet so happy I did when they poke their welcome noses up come spring. Allium Schubertii is a stunner!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Joey, I know where you are coming from. I dread planting all of the bulbs I have ordered. My husband actually uses a drill with an auger attached to plant all of those bulbs in the hard to dig areas.


Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

Thanks for the blog visits. I started planted a few bulbs, but have not fully committed myself to getting this fall chore done. I found your tips helpful. My older daffodils have ceased to bloom and from what you indicate must need to be lifted and divided. I probably don't dig down 10 inches either when planting bulbs, but I do try to dig deep, as I find it deters squirrels. I also make sure to pack down the soil with my foot after I plant bulbs. If squirrels start digging I want to make sure that the soil is not loose and easy to dig into.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Jennifer, I have my bulbs ordered but I dread the task. It is really hard work and sometimes my husband uses a very large drill to plant the tulips deeper.


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Sounds like a very informative talk. I'm really bad about not planting deep enough. The soil is so hard to dig in here I get lazy. The squirrels have already been digging up tulips from last year, I keep finding bulbs laying around. I've found that sometimes if I pat the ground really hard and flat the squirrels leave it alone. Maybe it erases the scent like walking over it does?

GardenJoy4Me said...

Eileen girl ! Did you go back and get the anemone ? LOL .. and what brunnera were you looking for , I am so curious aren't I ? haha
I also am guilty of not planting deep enough .. and I am sure my good luck from last years's bulb circle will not be as good .. but I can't wait to see what happens all the same .. I am planting more large cup daffs .. they are my favorite : 0 yellow and white combination .. I hope they come soon ! .. Great points from your speaker : )

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Catherine, maybe our presenter was right when she suggested walking around the planting area to tamp down the soil.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Joy, I am going to an appointment today near a really neat nursery, so I am going to check for the Brunnera, white and green leafed variety. I had plenty of the plain green at my old, old house and was giving it away. Now, the new varieties are very expensive. I am also going to look for the anemones. My bulbs should be coming today!


Karen said...

Hello Eileen, thank you so much for the great tutorial on bulbs. I am guilty of not planting deep enough too. And what a great reminder for me to get out and plant the two dozen daffodils I bought the other day from our trip to Hidden Lake Gardens...I'm anxious to see what my $2 purchase will grow to become.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Karen, I was supposed to get my bulbs today, they did not arrive. I think I need to order some more like my amaryllis and paperwhites.