Spring flowering bulbs
Bulbs bring a welcome sight in the spring with an eruption of color. Spring flowering bulbs are attractive and very resilient. They do well almost anywhere they are planted, and give a surprising show of color to any garden.
Spring flowering bulbs must be planted in the fall or early winter. Most bulbs are ready to release their stored up energy as soon as they are planted. They develop their root system soon after planting and push upward to the soils surface, and then stop. Sometimes bulbs can be tricked by an early thaw in late winter and popup above the ground, but stop when the cold returns. The warm spring weather will start their growth again. If properly cared for, these bulbs will come back year after year and provide blooms for many springs.
With good planning a spring bulb garden will provide blooms from early March through late spring. Careful attention should be made in site selection as well as preparation of the soil. Most bulbs need a well-drained soil to thrive. Do not plant bulbs in areas that retain water. In general bulbs need full sun to bloom year after year. Since most bulbs grow in the same area they are planted until it is necessary to dig them up for dividing, it is important to prepare the soil before planting.
In order to prepare the soil, you should loosen it 8–10 inches deep. Then add organic matter such as mature manure and work it into the soil. This process will improve the drainage especially in heavy clay areas in central Ohio. A standard fertilizer (5–10-10) should be worked into the soil to a depth of 4–6 inches.
Most bulbs are planted pointed side up. A general rule is to plant bulbs so that the soil above the bulb is twice the diameter of the bulb, thoroughly water after planting. Cover the planted area with 2–4 inches of mulch to retain water and protect the bulbs. If deer or mice are a problem in your neighborhood you may want to place wire mesh over the bulbs to discourage the varmints from digging the bulbs up to eat. Of course another solution would be to simply plant bulbs that deer will not eat, such as daffodils. More information is available with Fact Sheet HYG 1237–98 on Ohioline.osu.edu.
Most of the spring flowering bulbsâ€š core is concentrated to help the plant store energy for blooming the following year. After the flowers fade remove the growth so the plant does not waste any energy to develop seeds. Do not remove any foliage until it is yellow in color and dies back naturally. Cut the foliage off at ground level and remove it to avoid any disease. After several years, bulbs need to be dug up and divided. You can replant immediately after division or store them in a cool, dry, ventilated place until planting next year.
A good bulb planting guide suggests placing low bulbs in the front and higher bulbs in the back of a bed. This is a good rule for bulbs that bloom at similar times. You can also plant a cluster of the same bulb for more of an impact of color. Another way to plant bulbs is by bloom time. If bulbs are planted by staggering bloom times you can watch the color show from early spring until almost summer.
A suggestion for bulbs that have staggered bloom times would be the following:
â€¢ Early spring bulb examples: Snowdrops, crocus, aconites, hyacinths, early daffodils and early tulips.
â€¢ Mid spring bulb examples: Daffodils, anemones, tulips, and star of Bethlehem.
â€¢ Late spring bulb examples: Callas, alliums, caladiums, tuberous begonias and gladiolus.
Spring flowering bulbs can offer a dependable colorful display in your garden. They require very little effort and care. Whether you plant them in clusters or individually, by height or bloom time the benefits are enormous and are limited only by your imagination.
Diane Gelinas is an OSU Extension Master Gardener intern.