Bulbs 101

03.10.21 03:18 PM By Carson Arthur

Fall is perfect for bulbs...if you know what you're doing!

Want tulips or daffodils next spring?  NOW is the time to plant your bulbs.  


Here is my foolproof way to plant bulbs that will last for many years of enjoyment.


1. Choose the right bulbs! Whether you are shopping at a retail store or ordering online, make sure to look at the growing specs of all of the options. Not all tulips are the same! A few years ago I planted white tulips from big healthy looking bulbs. I didn’t realize that these tulips were giants, growing over 4’ tall. Unfortunately, I planted them in front of a basement window. (They have now been moved) 


2. Flat bottom holes work best. When planting your bulbs, I often group them in clusters in larger flat bottom holes that have good drainage. Bulbs can easily rot if they are in saturated soil. The depth of the hole should be about three times the height of the bulb. On average, I aim for 3" deep!


3. Delayed Flowering. Bulbs prefer to be planted ‘Tips Up, Roots down’. I’ve found that if you lay some bulbs on their sides, it takes them a little longer to bloom because they have to grow just a little further. This is an easy way to extend the flowering time from two weeks to three!


4. Amendments and squirrel deterrents. Often, gardeners will add fertilizers, bone meal or other products at this stage to help growth or to prevent squirrels from stealing your tubers because they don't like the smell. Even leftover chicken wire with 1 or 2” holes works well as a covering for your bulbs. After you dig the hole and put in your bulbs, cover them with the wire and then back fill with soil. The tulips have no problem growing through the mesh and the squirrels are unable to get the bulbs out from under it. 


5. Back fill and Disguise. Bury your bulbs and chicken wire with soil, being careful to not pack it down too firmly. Once this is done, spend a few minutes to disguise your planted space. Squirrels are attracted to disturbed soil because they think a rival has hidden a nut in that location. I like to add mulch to the whole bed at this point to keep the little critters guessing.


Bulbs really are the perfect way to pre-plan for an amazing spring. Whether you love them for you or looking to add a little curb appeal, do the work now and enjoy the rewards after the snow melts. Just make sure that you wait for the cooler weather…bulbs like soil that is 4C or colder. I NEVER plant bulbs before the first frost. Be patient, I promise that they are worth it.