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!