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Tips for Fall Planting of Spring Bulbs!

Tips for planting spring bulbs

By the time you start seeing tulips and daffodils adorning landscapes next spring, it will be way too late to add them to your landscape!  The time to plant spring bulbs is NOW!  Here are tips on how to purchase, how to plant and how to take care of spring bulbs.

Purchasing Spring Bulbs

First of all, purchase healthy bulbs that are firm, have no exterior blemishes and are not shriveled.  For quantity, consider how far apart you want to plant the bulbs, and follow this plant spacing chart to get the appropriate quantity (scroll to bottom on linked page for chart).  While purchasing bulbs, also pick up some Bone Meal or Good Earth brand Jump Start, which contains Bone Meal; these will strengthen the bulbs during next years’ season.  If your dogs have dug up bulbs in the past, they were most likely attracted to the Bone Meal.  In those situations, we suggest using Super Phospate. For bulbs that are already planted, apply a balanced fertilizer such as Ferti-Lome Start and Gro when the shoots emerge next spring and after flowering.

Other products to considering purchasing with your spring bulbs are Critter Ridder and Potash. Squirrels love harvesting bulbs; putting some Critter Ridder in the planting hole and sprinkling some of the top of the soil will help with that.  Applying Muriate of Potash every few years will help increase the hardiness of bulbs and other plants in flower beds.

Where to Plant Spring Bulbs

Bulbs will be most successful in sunny, well-drained areas of the landscape. There are several methods to planting bulbs; they can be placed, staggered, at equal distances apart and individually planted or a layer of soil, at the appropriate planting depth can be removed, all the bulbs placed at once, again staggered at equal distances, and then covered with previously removed soil.  Either way is fine; however, if there are other nearby plants, planting individually is recommended as it will disturb existing roots much less.  Be sure the crown, or pointed end of the bulb is facing upward and the more flat end of the bulb is resting downward.  Remember to use Bulb Booster or Bone Meal at planting.  Mulch the planted area to reduce weeds and to keep soil moisture regulated.

Caring for Spring Bulbs

Late winter weather might bring the bulb shoots up before it’s really time and it’s possible that subsequent cold weather could nip the shoots but overall there shouldn’t be too much damage and regardless, they will still bloom beautifully.  After the blooms fade, some people suggest braiding the fading shoots.  We don’t suggest that; in fact, unless the bulb plants are going to be removed, do not remove or mess with the shoots.  When the shoots are yellowed, they can be trimmed back.

To increase bulb health for next year, trim off spent blooms right after they fade so that any energy produced before the shoots turn yellow will go directly back into the bulb as resources stored for next year.  The trimming of spend blooms should only be done on large blooming bulbs like tulips and daffodils; some small flowering bulbs like Grape Hyacinth will reseed, helping the naturalization process, therefore no removal of blooms should be performed.

More Bulb Tips

Over time, some bulbs like daffodils will naturalize, requiring little care and spreading each year.  These stands will benefit from additional fertilizer each year as mentioned above.  Other bulbs like tulips only last a few years, with less and less plants emerging each year.  If your color schemes change every year, consider removing tulips plants after the blooms fade.

For additional information, check out this Timely Tip Series handout on fall bulb planting from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.