After a long winter, what is one of springs greatest joys? The spring color of fall planted bulbs! We go out searching every day for that first crocus or snowdrop, anxiously awaiting any sign that warmer weather is coming soon! The key is to plant bulbs now for spring color!
Bulbs are relatively easy to grow. Give them the right location and soil conditions, and you can have many years of bulb flower power. If you are just starting out in flower gardening, bulbs may be a fool-proof place to start. With so much variety, colors and types, the options are endless!
Uses In The Landscape
There are so many ways that you can use spring bulbs in your home landscape. A rock garden can be a fine home for a few early bulbs nestled into the crevices. Small plantings of scilla, crocus or dwarf iris may do the trick.
Naturalizing spring bulbs is a fabulous way to have a show of color in drifts on your property. Daffodil, scilla or grape hyacinth are a natural choices here. As long as the bulbs are not crowded by invasive weeds, bulbs can be planted on the edge of the woods and across meadows. Bulbs can be planted in an informal way, rows are not recommended. Dig random holes with a spade and place 4-5 bulbs in each hole. Each year they should multiply. Dividing larger clumps every few years is also helpful with establishing the desired look. Another advantage of planting a distance away is that when the foliage dies back it won’t be that visible.
If you want to see cheerful little flowers when you go outside, try planting some near your entry to your home. This will really dress up you doorway and add that ‘curb appeal’! Mix with pansies or violas for stunning color contrast.
Add bulbs like tulips and muscari to your existing perennial borders. The beauty of this method is that when the foliage of the bulbs is dying back, the foliage of the perennials is starting to emerge, disguising the ugliness a bit.
Container growing is a way to grow spring bulbs without taking up garden space. If you are an apartment dweller, planting a display of spring bulbs in an attractive pot or barrel to place by your front door could be a space-saving solution.
In times past, bulbs were often used in more formal, geometric gardens. Picture ladies in Victorian times taking a turn around the garden, inspecting all of the exotic spring bulbs their gardeners had planted the autumn before. If you have the space and ambition, this can make your spring garden a real showpiece! There are so many showy tulips that would be great candidates for this type of garden. A visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in April or May is unbelievable. The colors and shapes are astounding!
What Do Bulbs Like?
Generally, most bulbs prefer well drained, sandy garden soil. Soggy, wet soil is not recommended here. Full sun is a good idea although partial shade is fine. If you are doing a woodland planting, the soil may be compact and full of roots. Dig a hole with a spade and remove all roots. Add some compost or peat moss in with the bulbs. Then apply some bulb food. Bulb fertilizer is usually sold anywhere bulbs are sold. I like to use Bulb Tone.
What To Buy?
It seems like when fall hits there is no shortage of spring bulb catalogs in the mailbox. Every hardware store and garden center seems to have a bulb display. There are many reputable companies out there to order from. It is extremely easy to swooned by those glossy color photos of spring bulbs in bloom. Fedco seeds offers a modest collection of bulbs. There are many large companies such as John Scheepers, Van Engelen Inc. (a wholesaler) and k. van Bourgondien to name a few. For something a bit more interesting, try floret. Erin Benzakien, a cut flower grower, offers a wide range of gorgeous spring bulbs. If you live where bulbs are available for purchase, choose plump, firm bulbs. Make sure that you can see what you are buying. Avoid moldy, bug-infested and shriveled bulbs. They have endless bulk deals at the big box stores, just be sure you are buying healthy bulbs for the best results.
A List of Bulbs
There are so many bulbs to choose from. This is just a quick list to get you started with bulbs.
Crocus are among the first to peek out of the ground in spring. Coming in shades of purple, yellow, white and bi-colors, the possibilities are endless. Perfect for existing gardens or naturalizing. Spring blooming crocus work well in sun or part shade. Plant 4″ deep and 4″ apart. These should multiply quickly. Great early bee food too!
Daffodils come in so many shapes and sizes. All in the narcissus family, you can find large cupped, small cupped, multi-flowered, double, miniature and trumpet. It’s a huge list. You could be easily overwhelmed by a few pages of a bulb catalog. Terrific for naturalizing , daffodils can find a place in any home garden! Plant them 6″ deep.
Tulips come in endless colors, shapes and varieties. Parrot, double, mid-season, late-season, large, small…you get the picture. Many tulips are great the first year then somewhat of a letdown in following years. This is because often tulips are bred for looks not longevity. Try to pick perennial types like Darwin tulips or species tulips. Species tulips are very closely related to their wild ancestors. Although they are shorter than the usual tulips, they put on quite a show in my garden!
Squill or scilla come to us from Mediterranean regions. With their shades of blue, purple and white, they can appear to look like a blue sea if planted at a distance. Great for naturalizing, rock gardens or borders. This early bulb likes to be planted 5″ deep and 4-6″ apart.
Grape hyacinth or muscari looks a lot like it’s name. Little clusters of grapes! Coming in purple, lavender, pink and white, there can be a place for muscari in every landscape. Plant along with tulips and they will mark your tulip spots all season. The foliage lasts all summer and is not unattractive. Place muscari in the same holes as the tulips for a wonderful contrast at bloom time.
Snowdrops are the first to bloom out of the spring bulbs. They thrive in sun or filtered shade. Lovely in drifts throughout the landscape. They like well drained, sandy soil. They must be 4″ deep and 2-4″ apart.
These are just a few spring bulbs from a long list. Just a few things to get you started or maybe a little nudge to get you to add to your existing plantings!
With a little bit of forethought and not too much work, you can make a bulb display that will definitely be something to look forward to. This fall, I’ve added to my daffodil patch, replenished the tulips and added a few more crocus. Nothing major but certainly something to think about through the winter! We’ve had some cooler weather this week. It even snowed yesterday! I’ve got the hoop house ready and I now have a thermometer to keep track of high and low temps. Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week. Don’t forget to check me out on Instagram and Facebook! Maybe you will pick up a few spring flowering bulbs on your next shopping trip!