What Should I Know About Planting Bulbs?

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  • Written By: N. Phipps
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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For the most part planting bulbs is easy. However, there are steps all gardeners can take to help ensure the best possible results. These are merely recommended suggestions, as there are never any absolutes in the bulb garden. What works for some may not work for others. Yet, following the suggested guidelines does improve the chances for success.

When purchasing or choosing bulbs for the garden, they should be firm. Soft or bruised bulbs are less likely to produce healthy bulb plants. Bulbs should be planted as soon as possible or at least stored in a cool, dry location until ready to plant. If storing prior to planting bulbs, take care to keep them away from moist or humid areas, which makes them prone to rotting. Bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator provided there are no ripening vegetables nearby, as these emit ethylene gas and will damage plant bulbs.

Oftentimes, this cold storage is necessary for optimal plant growth, especially with hardy spring bulbs. For instance, daffodils and tulips require a significant cold period prior to planting in order to flourish. Before planting bulbs, it’s important to consider their location in addition to their specific growing requirements. Most bulbs require well-drained soil and plenty of light.


Soil drainage is especially important. Unless a particular species is well adapted to wet soils, poor drainage can lead to bulb rot. In addition, most bulbs require adequate sunlight in order to trigger flowering. Again, different bulbs have different needs. Many bulbs respond well to shade. Success with planting bulbs depends on matching each bulb plant to its proper growing needs.

Appropriate depth and spacing is another important aspect. Normally, bulbs are planted about three times as deep as their height. Spacing requirements for planting bulbs varies depending on size. For instance, small bulbs may require spacing of no more than a few inches apart whereas larger ones may need up to 6 inches (15.24 cm) or more. Bulbs do not usually require too much in the way of fertilizer. Using compost while planting can help meet the growing needs of most bulbs.

While it’s acceptable to remove dead flowers once blooming has stopped, it’s best to allow any yellow foliage to remain. This is a necessary process, which nourishes the bulbs. Bulbs depend on their foliage for energy. Cutting this foliage back rather than allowing it to die back naturally can result in future non-flowering. Another cause for non-flowering comes from issues with overcrowding. Therefore, bulbs should be divided every few years to avoid overcrowding problems. Planting bulbs can be an easy and successful endeavor, especially when the suggested guidelines are followed.



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