Tips For Bulb Planting Success

Tips For Bulb Planting Success

When the bulb displays arrive at Hyannis Country Garden, we smile because these spring-blooming flowers are a fall-planting tradition. The air is cool, the sun is warm, and planting bulbs is a life-affirming acknowledgement that even as the days grow shorter, we look forward to spring and the return of colorful blooms when winter ends. Here are some ideas and tips for planting bulbs on Cape Cod.

Daffodils are one of the most satisfying spring bulbs because the critters don’t eat the flowers and when planted in good soil they return year after year.

Many people want their daffodils to grow in full clumps right away, so they plant the bulbs very close together. This is a long-term mistake, however. Each bulb won’t be able to spread if they are close to each other right from the start. For the best return and spreading of daffodils, plant the bulbs about 12 inches apart.

If your soil is sandy, spread a layer of Bulb-tone over the entire where you’re planting bulbs, topped by two inches of compost. Some of that fertilizer and compost gets dug in when you dig and fill the holes for the bulbs, and some stays on the surface to amend the soil from the top down. Follow with a one inch layer of mulch next spring to control weeds.

These bulbs were planted twelve inches apart so that they could spread and form these lovely, informal clumps in a shade garden.
Grape hyacinths are a favorite to plant near yellow daffodils or pink tulips.

Here’s what you need to know about Muscari, aka grape hyacinths. They sprout foliage in the fall. Many people worry that the bulbs are doing this by mistake, but rest assured these plants know what they are doing. Leave those fall-sprouted leaves alone. Don’t cover them or think that they need protection through the winter. They’ll be fine and the newer foliage and flowers will cover the slightly winter-worn leaves in the spring.

Alliums are the perfect bulb to plant between perennial plants in a flower garden.

If you plant allium bulbs in between perennial plants such as catmint and daylilies, you’ll be congratulating yourself next June! These tall flowers aren’t bothered by bunnies, and they make lovely cut flowers too.

Place some tall allium where you can see them up close from May through June. They are one of the most stylish flowers you can grow, and watching them sprout, bud and come into flower is a true pleasure at the beginning of the growing season.
Tulips make people happy. That alone is reason to grow them! See your suggestions below for keeping these lovely spring flowers away from the bunnies and deer. n

Tulips don’t spread and last for years like daffodils do, but they are the perfect flower for making us smile, even if the Cape Cod spring weather is cold and damp. If you’ve had trouble with the critters eating your tulip flowers in the past, grow them in large pots, boxes or barrels on decks, patios or porches where the rabbits can’t get them. After they finish flowering in the spring you can transplant the bulbs into a garden or toss them in an open compost pile…where they will most likely surprise you with a few flowers the following year.

The key to growing tulips in a container is to use a large pot or box with drainage holes. Fill that container with new, fresh potting mix. If you use old mix where annuals grew in the past summer, the drainage won’t be good and the bulbs are likely to rot. Make sure to plant in metal, wood, plastic or fiberglass containers that won’t crack over the winter time. Once spring arrives, water the soil in the containers once a week if the rain doesn’t do so for you.
Garlic is another bulb that is planted in the fall. For success with garlic, don’t plant it too early. Mid-October through November is good timing on Cape Cod.

If you’ve never planted garlic before, see our blog post from the past about how to successfully grow these bulbs.

For more fall-planting ideas and help with your bulb questions, register for C.L. Fornari’s virtual Sunday Seminar on September 12th. Details about this talk and how to register here.

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