Frequently Asked Question about Flower Bulbs
Tulip & Flowers FAQ
Ideally, you should plant six weeks or so prior to hard ground frosts in your area to allow ample time for fall root development.
Generally, the depth of the planting hole will depend upon the size of the bulb. As a general rule you should make the planting hole two to three times the height of the bulb. Be sure to plant the bulbs the right way: the root system down and the pointed part up.
You can leave the spring-bloomers in the ground, because they are winter ‘hardy’. On the other hand you should remove the summer-blooming bulbs when you live in a cold climate zone. These bulbs are not winter ‘hardy’, so they cannot stand the cold. When you live in a warm climate zone then you can leave the bulbs in the ground.
Tulips are sun as well as shade lovers. But when planting your tulips this fall, don't be fooled by the patterns of sun and shade in the fall garden! Remember that come spring, when tulips bloom, all the deciduous, non-evergreen trees in your yard will be beautifully leafless. There's a lot of sun in a spring garden!
Groups of bulbs make a much nicer show than individual 'soldiers marching single file.' To create greater color impact in the garden, plant clusters of same-color flowers together in blocks or 'bouquets.' Visually, you get more 'bang for the buck.' One trick: try positioning similar bulbs in a triangular planting pattern in the garden, with the point of the triangle towards the front and the long leg towards the back. The result: it will look as if you planted more flowers than you did. Generally, larger bulbs should be planted 3 to 6 inches apart, smaller bulbs 1 to 2 inches apart.
Once upon a time, bone meal was considered an excellent bulb fertilizer, but times have changed! Most bone meal today has been so thoroughly processed that much of the essential nutrients have been literally boiled out. Spring-flowering bulbs actually need no fertilizer for their first season of blooming. A healthy Dutch bulb will already contain all the food it needs to support one season of spectacular growth. Bulbs that will be left in the ground to naturalize will benefit from well-rotted cow manure or special bulb fertilizer when the shoots first appear in spring and again the following fall.
Mulch is not required but it is often beneficial. Three inches is plenty. Wait until the ground cools down. Contrary to popular notions, mulching over bulbs is meant to retain soil moisture and keep the ground temperatures cool and stable, not to serve as a 'warm winter blanket' (except in the very coldest climates). Mulch just before the ground freezes. Applying mulch too early in the season, when the ground is still soft and warm, can invite infestations by field mice and other critters that like to burrow in to establish winter quarters (and no doubt dig up tasty tulip treats!)
Spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils must be planted in the fall or early winter to bloom in spring because they require a long period of cool temperatures to spark the biochemical process that causes them to flower.
Growers in the Netherlands plant their bulbs in November. They can do this because winters in the Netherlands never really start until mid-December. In regions where the winter starts earlier, it would be advisable to plant tulips in October.
No! If they are still firm and plump, plant them now. Bulbs are living plants, not seeds they cannot wait, they will dry out. Either chill them in the refrigerator for use indoors as forced bulbs or somehow get them into the ground outside. Because they are so tough and contain a full storehouse of food, your bulbs will try their best to bloom no matter how late it is in the season. This is a case of 'nothing ventured, nothing gained.' Chances are you may still get some results, even if you plant them late.
Nothing. Tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs are tough. They can usually take what Mother Nature dishes out. When the weather turns, don't dash outside to cover early-sprouting bulbs with extra 'weather protection.' A short freeze won't do lasting damage to young bulb shoots and buds, though it may 'burn' already open blossoms. Many, such as snowdrops, crocuses, and early rock garden narcissi are supposed to come up in very early spring, even peeking through the snow. An unseasonably warm spell may cause some bulbs to bloom earlier than anticipated, but in most cases won't result in damage.
1. You can remove the flowers bulb and all and discard them. This is done by most avid gardeners who are constantly improving their garden design and the look and feel of their garden. It also guarantees fresh bulbs (because they plant new bulbs every year) in their garden and they can be sure of fresh strong flowers.
2. You can also choose to let the bulbs stay in the ground and have them bloom again next year. In this case you must allow the bulb to charge up its energy for the winter and to bloom again next year. This means that the leaves must stay on until they die down. The leaves will keep loading the bulb with sunlight and nutrients. After the leaves are dead you can cut them back and just leave the bulbs until next year when many will bloom again. High quality bulbs should come back for about 3 years, but they do get weaker year after year.
No, it’s not. Spring bloomers have their life cycle and fresh bulbs are available in the period of August – November. In case you find for example tulip bulbs for sale in spring you can be pretty sure these are old harvest and not fresh. Don’t buy!
Fritillaria imperialis and the Allium species are the bulbs with the strongest odours. Chives (A. schoenoprasum), Ramson (A. ursinum), onion sets (A. cepa), shallots (A. ascalanicum) and garlic (A. sativum) all belong to the Allium family. The scent of other members of this family is similar as well. The strong smell of Fritillaria imperialis keeps moles out of your garden.
Species tulips refers to those varieties which have not been bred or hybridized and remain essentially as they are found in nature. Botanical tulips are hybrids, but hybrids, which remain very close to the original species. Neither of these terms refers to 'wild' tulips. All tulips sold by the Dutch, including the species and botanical tulips, are actually propagated and grown in Holland.
Tulipa tarda, circa 1590s. T. tarda is native to Turkestan.
My tulips don't do well at all the second season of bloom. I've been told that lifting the bulbs, storing them for the summer and replanting them in the fall will improve their performance. Is this true?
This old-fashioned method is difficult, yields mediocre results and is generally a lot of bother. It is better to look for those tulips with a natural propensity for repeat performance. Botanical or species varieties and their hybridized strains are generally excellent garden performers and sometimes will even naturalize (multiply).
When the deer population in your area is high, you better not plant tulips. There are however enough other bulbs you can plant and enjoy. Think about:
Unfortunately, no bulbs have the capacity to really scare off mice or rats. There are a few precautionary measures that can be taken to keep these pests from eating your bulbs, however. First, plant the bulbs deeply enough and cover them properly with soil so that mice and/or rats are not attracted to the planting site. Secondly, cover the border where the bulbs have been planted with some finely meshed wire netting. Lay out this netting so that it more than covers the border and then insert the edges slightly into the soil.
Squirrels can be terrible pests! They won't bother daffodils and other narcissi bulbs (which taste terrible to them!), but they find tulips and crocus in particular to be worth the effort to sniff out and dig up. The only sure-fire way to protect tulips and crocuses and other tasty bulb treats from squirrels is to lay wire mesh such as chicken wire on top of the bed. The squirrels can't dig through the mesh and the flowers will grow neatly through the holes.
A favourite Dutch remedy is to interplant Fritillaria imperialis. This tall dramatic plant gives off an odor that squirrels (and deer too, reportedly) find repellent.
Many gardeners claim success with commercial repellents, but these are often sticky and unpleasant to deal with, or wash away in the rain.
When tiny insects emerge from a bouquet composed of summer bulb flowers, this does no harm to the flowers but it’s certainly not pleasant for you. These insects have emerged from eggs that were laid there earlier and will usually have disappeared within a couple of days. One way to deal with this problem is to spray the bouquet with a mixture of dishwashing detergent, water and a dash of methylated spirits; another way is to place the bouquet outside on your garden table until the insects have flown away.