By Jackson & Perkins
Photographs courtesy of Jackson & Perkins
No matter what time of the season, gardeners are always thinking ahead to next year. We think about places we could add more flowering shrubs or spots that would be made even more perfect with a selection of perennial plants. But an easy addition you can make to your planting schedule is spring bulbs.
Spring bulbs are often the first thing to bloom in spring, and they’re a welcome hello after winter. They also can be planted around other showpieces in your garden, ensuring that you have color and visual interest before the rest of your plants are ready to bloom. But it’s important to know how to plant your bulbs to give them the best start to their lives before you actually pick the bulbs you want to plant.
4 Tips for Planting Your Spring Bulbs
While it might be easy to assume you can just dig a hole and drop a bulb in, it’s important to know a few things you should do before planting your bulbs — especially because bulbs, like other plants, need the right start to grow their best. Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Pick a Spot with Sunlight
Your bulbs will want about six hours of sunlight to get their best start once it’s time to flower. The good thing to remember though is if you have a garden with a decent amount of shade, most trees and other plants tend to lose their leaves and other foliage during the winter. This can turn a normally shady spot into just the right amount of sunshine for your bulb.
That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to plant your bulbs around a full shade tree (unless it’s evergreen) because that tree’s leaves probably won’t be a factor when it comes time for your bulb to bloom.
2. Prep Your Soil
You know how your plants love compost and good soil? So do your bulbs. Pick a spot that is well-drained to start. Too much water in the soil will make your bulbs rot. Then, prepare the spot where you’ll plant your bulb. Remove weeds, loosen up the soil and add your compost.
Review the packaging that comes with your bulb to ensure you’re giving that particular bulb the best start. But for general tips, remember this: plant pointy-side up, roughly three times deeper than the bulb is tall.
3. Plant Your Bulbs During the Right Time of the Season
If you’re buying bulbs for fall, you can often find them in stores earlier than they are meant to be planted. But when you do this, it means you have to store those bulbs in the perfect environment so they are viable for planting. This is why we recommend you always shop for bulbs from a nursery like Jackson & Perkins. We ship our bulbs at planting time for your zone, so you know when you receive your bulbs, they’re ready to plant in your garden.
4. Know Which Bulbs to Plant
If you follow tip 3, this won’t be a problem for you because your bulbs will ship at the time they’re meant to be planted. But if you don’t, it’s important to know that not all bulbs are meant to be planted in the fall. For example, big, beautiful dahlias bloom in the summer and into the fall. They’re meant to be put in the ground in spring. We recommend following an old gardening tip: If your bulb flowers in spring, plant it in the fall. If it flowers in summer or fall? It’s meant to be planted in the springtime.
Many bulbs these days aren’t super finicky, but it’s still smart to ensure that your soil has the best amendments added to it to keep your bulbs healthy through winter dormancy into spring bloom.
10 Spring Bulbs Perfect for Fall Planting
Now that you know exactly how to prep your bulb bed, it’s time to pick your bulbs. This might be the toughest part of the whole process because it’s hard to choose with so many gorgeous options. We’ve put together a list of our favorite spring bulbs to get you started:
Allium: There are all different types of allium, but they are all stunning examples of spring bulbs. These flowers put up big, globe-like flowers that rise above the foliage around them. Many of them bloom for up to one whole month, making them the perfect spring greeting.
As a bonus, when allium starts to reach the end of its life, it will dry. This is the perfect time to cut your allium and use it in a dried flower arrangement you can enjoy for years. Allium looks best when planted around low, mounding perennials.
Daffodils: These bulbs are perfect for beginners because they’re pretty much a sure thing. Daffodils, also known as narcissus, come in a variety of colors, including yellow, whites, white and yellows, pinks and more. And there are varieties that have double petals and even ruffled petals.
Best of all, the hungry critters — like squirrels — that might forage through your garden, hate daffodils. This is because they’re actually poisonous to them.
Crocus: If you live in the north, you’ll want to add crocuses to your garden. This is because they are often one of the earliest flowers to bloom. Some gardeners even report seeing crocuses when there’s still snow in their yard.
Crocuses come in a variety of colors, including variations of white and purple and combinations. These colorful little flowers grow low and are great additions around other larger features of the garden, especially evergreen flowering shrubs.
Anemones: Anemones are more than just sea creatures. In the gardening world, these are bright, beautiful flowers similar to poppies that love to show themselves in mid- to late-spring.
These flowers are great for beginners because they’ll grow in pretty much any type of soil without much fuss. There’s only one caveat to this: Some types of anemone, like the “Mr. Fokker” anemone, prefer to have their bulbs soaked before planting. This gives them the best start in the fall before winter arrives.
Tulips: There isn’t a proper list of spring bulbs without listing tulips. And truth is, we could devote an entire list of spring bulbs just to the many different types of tulips available. There are so many colors, shapes, structures and sizes to choose from that it’s impossible to pick just one.
There are a few things you should know about tulips. While considered perennials, most people find their tulips don’t come back year after year, so you’ll have to plant new tulips each fall. Additionally, squirrels and chipmunks love tulips. So if you want to keep your tulips away from them, create a little cage of mesh or chicken wire where you plant your bulb to prevent critters from getting your springtime stunners.
Hyacinth: Want a bulb that produces stunningly vibrant flowers but also smells incredible? Hyacinth is the bulb you should plant. They’re easy to grow and come in a wide variety of colors that will work in any garden bed in your yard. From bright pinks to deep maroons, whites and even peach colors, you’re sure to love your hyacinth blossoms after a long winter.
For indoor gardeners, urban gardeners or gardeners looking for a great gift, hyacinth also does well in a container so you can enjoy their vibrant colors in the smallest of spaces.
Scilla (or squill): Scilla, like crocuses, bloom anywhere from early to mid-spring, depending on the variety. Their leaves are a bright green that sets off the colorful blooms. They’re also shockingly easy to grow. Varieties like the Siberian squill can handle pretty much any soil, temperature, pest or garden critter that comes along — including deer. This means that once you get your scilla in the ground, it will show up year after year.
One thing to note: Some varieties only last a handful of years before it’s time to plant new ones. Their presence in your garden is more than worth adding them again and again.
Muscari: Muscari, also known as grape hyacinth, deserve their spot on our list (even though we’ve already listed hyacinth). This is because their flowers are so unique. They look like tiny little grapes, and they can thrive in most areas of the yard, including rock gardens. Plus, they’re resistant to deer and pests, so you don’t have to fight off nature to keep them coming back.
Like other types of hyacinths, these beauties grow great in your outdoor garden, but they’ll also thrive as a gift or an addition to a pot inside.
Lilies: Like tulips, you can’t have a list of spring bulbs without mentioning lilies. And like tulips, there are so many varieties of lilies that it would be impossible to pick a single favorite. Truly, lilies today are works of art. They come in so many colors, sizes and styles, ranging from classic whites, pinks, yellows and oranges to deep, almost-black shades and reds that are reminiscent of lipstick.
Because there are so many different varieties of lilies available, you should look at your specific type of lily to know when it’s going to bloom. This will help you plant it in a spot where its brilliance isn’t overshadowed by other plants starting their bloom.
While lilies look great in your garden, they are also an amazing addition to a live flower bouquet. Add them throughout your house to bring the vibrance of your garden inside.
Starflowers: These flowers get their names from their beautiful blooms that herald the arrival of spring. They love sunshine, and they love to spread in their area of the garden. If you’re looking to fill up a spot, starflowers (Ipheion) are an easy way to make that happen. If you’re not interested in your starflower spreading, just make sure to deadhead them once the bloom is done.
These six-petaled stunners don’t just come with beautiful colors. They are also sweet-smelling. And as an added bonus, some starflowers will even bloom a second time in fall once they’re established, giving you the chance to enjoy them twice in one year.
The hardest part about making a list of the best spring bulbs to plant is trying to choose from the myriad of bulbs available to gardeners. Every year, more and more varieties of our favorite bulbs come out, and you could easily devote entire sections of your garden just to specific varieties of one type of bulb.
In fact, that’s just what some gardeners do with tulips. Entire fields of tulips grow in Holland, but there are gardeners here in the United States that do the same. It’s your garden, and you should always plant the things that bring you the most joy every season.
Planting Bulbs as a Beginner
If you’re a beginner looking to start planting bulbs for the first time, try not to get too overwhelmed with the process. Pick a couple of types of bulbs that draw your eye, find the right spot in your garden and add them to the ground once you’ve prepped your soil. You’re sure to be thrilled when you see your bulbs pop up after winter with green foliage and bright colors — no matter what variety you decided to try for the first time. And remember, you can always add more!
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardener, bulbs give your garden the most gorgeous start in spring. They can give just about any spot in your garden a boost of color and even fragrance, which will encourage you to get out and start up your spring tasks. Treat yourself to bulbs this year and you’ll be glad you did come spring.
All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.