Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs

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If you’re out in the garden this fall consider planting some spring-blooming bulbs. A bulb is a modified stem that is surrounded by scale-like modified leaves that store food for the new shoots that appear in Spring. When you’re shopping for bulbs at a garden center, you may also notice corms, tubers, tuberous roots, or rhizomes. It’s easiest not to get too caught up in the botany; these “bulbs” are all grouped together because their care in the garden is generally the same. You can also order from a catalog or online for a wider selection. Select large, firm bulbs, and avoid any bulb that is soft or mushy.

Most people think of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths when they are planting spring-flowering bulbs. Gardeners in North Carolina often grow tulips as annuals because they don’t reliably come back in all areas. Consider planting the species form of tulips such as “Lady Jane” in the landscape. These will come back each year and slowly spread around the garden. Daffodils are also a good choice as they tend to return to the garden year after year. Crocuses offer color very early in the spring long before many other plants awaken. Wait until soil temperatures have cooled to below 60°F. Bulbs grow best in well-drained soil; incorporate compost or peat moss into the top 12 to 18 inches of soil to improve drainage. Generally, you want to plant bulbs at a depth two to three times the width of the bulb. For optimal color and impact in the spring, plant bulbs close together. You can even layer smaller bulbs on top of larger ones, then finish with cool-season annuals on top. Planting the bulbs in a drifting pattern will be visually pleasing when they emerge in the spring. After planting bulbs, it’s a good idea to apply slow-release fertilizer and apply mulch. Follow your soil test report for the best fertilizer option.

For more information on horticulture and other topics, please contact theNorth Carolina Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center at 919-496-3344 or Colby Griffin, Commercial and Consumer Horticulture Extension Agent, at colby_griffin@ncsu.edu.