Create brilliant splashes of color around your yard next spring by planting flower bulbs this fall. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, and other bulb flowers make a beautiful, fragrant spring welcome.
Proper planting of these adaptable wonders, however, is important to successful blooming.
Select a location that has full sun, well-draining soil, and is rich in organic matter. Decide if you want a natural look or straight rows.
To achieve a natural look, toss the bulbs by the handful and plant them where they fall. Dont be tempted to organize them; youll take away from the natural feel. Straight row plantings can frame a border or line a walkway.
Planting times range from September through November, depending on climate. Bulbs need at least a month to develop strong root growth before the ground freezes. Bulbs also need a cold period of at least six weeks in order to flower in spring.
If you live in a southern climate where ground temperatures dont get cold enough, place the bulbs in the refrigerator at 45 degrees for six weeks before planting. Do not allow the bulbs to freeze.
When purchasing bulbs, choose the largest, called topsize, which will give spectacular blooms the first year.
Planting depths range from 5 to 10 inches for each variety. Check package directions before planting. Its better to plant too deep than too shallow so roots are protected from winter temperatures.
Using a bulb planter or trowel, dig to the recommended depth, work a small amount of specially formulated bulb fertilizer into the hole, place the bulbpointed end facing upwardinto the hole, cover with soil, and water well. If you are unsure which end is pointed, place the bulb on its side.
In the spring, when flowering is completed, the bulbs begin storing energy and producing next years flower. During this time the leaves become unsightly, turning yellow, then brown. Do not clean them up. The bulb needs its leaves to store energy for next season. Once the leaves turn completely brown, you can either leave the bulbs in the ground or dig them up to store in a cool, dry area.
Bulbs that flower in early spring include dwarf iris and hyacinth. Varieties for light shade areas include alliums, wood hyacinth, and Glory of the Snow. Bulbs suited to a natural planting are scilla (all species) and daffodils.
Garden tulips have a wide variety of blooming times with Apricot Beauty, Red Riding Hood, and Emperor flowering in early spring. Triumph and Darwin hybrids bloom midspring. Lily-flowered, Rembrandt, and peony types flower during May.