Planting Spring-Flowering Bulbs: For A ‘Bustin’ Out All Over’ Garden

In colder areas, just move the planting dates up a little. As long as you get bulbs in before the ground freezes, you’ll probably do fine.

Have Your Soil Tested

Bulbs do best in soil with a pH range between 6 and 7. Soil test kits can be obtained from your Cooperative Extension Service or from your local land grant college. You may have to apply materials to adjust the soil pH.

Select a Location

What does the plant require? If they require full sunshine, take this into account. But also remember that spring bulbs bloom fairly early in spring, before some trees and shrubs leaf out, so, if that’s the case, then you can plant them under trees and shrubs.

Prepare The Soil

Bulbs like well-drained soil. If your soil is high in clay, you can improve it by adding compost or some other type of organic material. Work the compost into the top 12 inches of soil. If you feel motivated, mix it into the first 18 inches of soil.

Phosphorous encourages root development in bulbs, so it needs to be available to the roots. Since many bulbs are planted at least six inches deep, mix bone meal into the soil below the area you’re going to put your bulbs.

Also, mix a balanced fertilizer mixture into the soil. When the bulb growth begins to show through the soil, repeat. Do not fertilize after blooming has begun. This can encourage bulb rot and could also shorten the flowering period.


Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths need to be planted with the bulb “nose” facing up, and the “root plate” facing downward. Instead of using bulb planters, simply press the bulbs into the ground to the proper depth. Anemones should be planted on their sides. Ranunculus with the “claws” down.

After Planting

Following planting, water. It helps settle the soil and gives the bulbs a good drink. Bulbs planted in the fall need to root before cold weather sets in. Watering them when you plant them gets the roots off to a good start. However, do not overwater. This can also cause bulb rot.

When buds start to appear on the plants, water only if the soil is dry. If it is dry, water deeply. If the bulbs have been planted six to eight inches deep, then the water needs to penetrate beyond that depth. Between the time the first buds appear and into the period that early foliage begins to appear, water about one inch of water per week. However, remember this. If an inch of rain has fallen during a given week, withhold watering. Use a soaker hose to keep water off the bloom.

What to plant and when

Bul planted in areas w\here the ground freezes in winter should be put into the ground before the ground freezes. Otherwise, follow planting instructions on the package or those recommended by your local agricultural agent.

In warmer areas, it may be necessary to refrigerate some bulbs before planting.

  • Amaryllis. Full sun to partial shade. Well-drained beds. Make sure the necks are exposed above ground. However, remember that amaryllis are warmer weather plants and may not do well in colder areas.
  • Anemones. Soak in room temperature water for up to four hours. Plant one to two inches deep, and three to four inches apart. Plant on their side.
  • Ranunculus. Plant two inches deep. Most ranunculus varieties are annuals. Soak up to four hours in tepid water before planting.
  • Paperwhites. Plant four inches deep. When planted directly in the garden, they will naturalize.
  • Daffodils. Full sun. Plant four to five inches deep. Its hard to foul up daffodils, and even black-thumbed gardeners can do well with these beautiful plants. Refrigeration is necessary.
  • Crocus. Plant one inch deep, and two to three inches apart.
  • Tulips. Plant six inches deep. For this area, refrigerate (between 45 and 55 degrees) for eight weeks before planting.
  • Hyacinths. Plant five inches deep.

Pest Protection

There are a lot of critters out there who love to munch on tasty bulbs. Voles, squirrels, gophers and even raccoons are all potential diners at the bulb cafeteria in the garden.There are a number of actions you can take, but none of them are foolproof.

  • Planting bulbs in wire cages (made of chicken wire) is probably the best way to prevent any animals from getting to the bulbs.
  • Placing sharp stones around each bulb has some effect on preventing burrowing mammals from getting to them from below.
  • Cayenne pepper, pepper flakes and deer repellant also seem to be effective.
  • When planting bulbs, there are always waste byproducts. Those little “onion skins” – the dry outer layers of the bulbs, bits of tuber or roots, tiny pup bulbs that have come loose from the parent bulb are invitations to pests to come out and dine. Clean up all litter after planting.
  • Finally, mulch. Mulch makes it much more difficult for pests to find those bulbs.