Spring flower bulbs are an easy way to add color and interest to your garden. Plant them in different spots for pops of vibrancy or plant a large amount of one variety to create a wow factor. There are varieties galore, providing bloom times from spring through fall. Hardy flower bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, are cold tolerant. Tender bulbs, like caladiums and gladiolus, are not. Tender flower bulbs are planted in spring, dug up before the first frost in fall and stored through winter. This kind of plant blooms in summer, although tuberose and some dahlia also bloom into fall. Most bulbs prefer full sun and well-drained soil. If deer are plentiful in your area, plant deer-resistant varieties like daffodils and allium. There are some spring flower bulbs that do well in light to medium shade, such as Spanish bluebells and snow drops. Also, plan for bloom time — if you want to welcome spring before it officially arrives, crocus is for you; if you're a summer lover, lilies are the way to go.
What are flower bulbs?
Gardeners around the world plant flower bulbs in the spring and the fall—flower bulbs are a vital part of gardening in all seasons. But, what exactly are flower bulbs? What are they made of, and how do daffodils, hyacinth, tulips and our other floral favorites sprout from them?
Flower bulbs are all-inclusive containers, holding everything needed to create the stems, leaves, blooms and other structures of their flowers. These are organs that are used by the plants to hibernate, storing moisture and nutrients that allow it to maintain life throughout winter. Bulbs also allow for multiplication through splitting.
Many of the plants we think of as growing "from a bulb," such as allium, tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinths have all their necessary components packed into a bulb similar to garlic or onion bulbs. If you slice a true flower bulb in half, you'll see multiple layers.The bottom of the bulb is made up of a short section of stem called the basal plate, from which the stem and roots grow. The bud of the flower sits in the center of the bulb. The layers surrounding the bud, called scales, are bases of leaves that are ready to grow.
Some plants that are colloquially referred to as "bulbs'' are actually grown from corms or rhizomes, not true bulbs. Crocuses are grown from corms, small underground stems without visible rings, which divide quickly. Plants with tuberous roots, like caladiums and dahlias, store energy in their actual roots, growing from eyes like potatoes.
Rhizomatous plants, like peonies and daylilies, grow from horizontal underground rhizomes that send out roots and shoots. All of these plants have one thing in common: their structures are planted completely below ground, and the plants build out roots before sprouting.
How to plant flower bulbs:
Flower bulbs are some of the easiest plants to grow: you simply place them in the ground at the right time (we'll send you your bulbs when they are ready to plant) and wait for them to emerge. In order to plant your flower bulbs, you'll only need a good location and appropriate soil.
Picking a location may be the most challenging part of planting flower bulbs, and it's not particularly difficult. You'll find that bulbs perform beautifully in nearly any type of garden. Flower bulbs offer an incredibly diverse set of bloom times, color options, shapes, heights and sizes—flower bulbs aren't just daffodils and tulips. It's possible to populate a bed with bulbs and never see a spring or summer day without a flower! Choose locations for your flowering bulbs that will allow them to compliment one another. Consider bloom times, heights, and color combinations, and don't be afraid to take pencil to paper and sketch out your ideal bulb garden. Check the recommended spacing for each variety, and be sure to allow room for your plants to grow.
Most flower bulbs prefer sunny spots, but some—especially smaller, delicate flowers like snowdrops or scilla—will bloom in shade. Nearly all bulbs require well-draining soil—remember that bulbs store all of their structures below ground, so wet ground will drown them.
Actually planting flower bulbs is quite easy. Loosen the soil, and add any amendments necessary to ensure well-drained, 'healthy' soil. If your soil is particularly alkaline or full of clay, lime can be a useful tool in adding acidity and drainage. If you have poor soil quality, mix in compost to increase the nutrient levels of your garden.
To set each bulb, dig a hole two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. So, for small half-inch crocus corms, dig a hole about one to one-and-a-half inches deep. Large tulip bulbs that may be two inches will get a hole at least four inches deep. Set each bulb with the pointed end facing up, then cover with soil and mulch.
When to plant flower bulbs:
Some bulbs should be planted in fall, and some in spring. Bulbs purchased from Spring Hill Nursery will be shipped to you at the correct planting time, helping to take the guesswork out of planting them.
Typically, fall-planted bulbs bloom in early, mid or late spring, while spring-planted bulbs bloom mid to late summer. Spring-planted bulbs should be planted after all danger of frost has passed.. Most fall bulbs can be planted when temperatures remain in the 40s all day. Planting them in fall, after the weather turns cool but before the ground freezes, allows them to build roots before a truly frigid winter sets in.
Many rhizomatous plants that bloom in the summer are planted in the spring. Those varieties, like cannas and lily-of-the-valley, should go into the ground as the weather begins to warm. They'll wake up with the earth and reward you with showy flowers in later summer.
How to store unplanted flower bulbs:
How can you store flower bulbs, and how long do flower bulbs last? If you miss your chance to plant spring-flowering bulbs in the fall, what should you do with those bulbs?
Most spring-blooming bulbs can be planted after the autumn chill sets in but before the ground is frozen hard. If the ground is already truly frozen, you can wait until the following spring to plant your bulbs — however, these bulbs may not bloom their first year. Spring-blooming bulbs planted in spring are generally less successful, but most of these bulbs will also not last a full year until the next planting season. To avoid rot, store your bulbs in a cool, dry space, like a basement or garage over winter. Don't keep them in plastic packaging. Instead, place them on a tray or in a box layered with paper to absorb any moisture and prevent rot.
You can also "force" several kinds of bulbs by planting them in pots and growing them indoors. Forcing is particularly effective with daffodils, amaryllis, hyacinths, and other early-flowering spring bulbs. Plant your bulbs in soil-filled containers before winter, and keep the pots in a cool and dry location. Don't leave them outside to freeze, though. Containers don't offer the same protection as ground soil. When you are ready to force your bulbs, begin watering them, and set them in a sunny, warm location to simulate springtime.