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How to plant the best bulbs

29th Oct '20 • By Rohit Mankame

Passionate about gardening and want your bulbs to grow vibrantly this season? Here are few things to be remembered before you start planting your bulbs…

Gardening equipment The term “bulb” often refers not only to true bulbs, but also plants with tuberous roots, tubers, corms, and rhizomes; the information here can be applied to all of these. With a little basic knowledge, anyone can grow beautiful bulbs. Bulbs are a great way to improve the way your garden looks and feels. The best season to plant bulbs is during spring. The cool temperature provides bulbs with the perfect climate, jump starting their growth. 

What are the types of bulbs?

Spring Bulbs

These bulbs are also called hardy bulbs & are planted in the fall. They spend the winter in the soil, and bloom in the spring. Tulips, irises, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, and crocus are some of the more common spring bulbs. These bulbs require several weeks of cold temperatures to end their dormancy and bloom to their maximum capacity, 

Summer Bulbs

These bulbs, also known as tender bulbs, are planted in spring and bloom or leaf out in summer. Popular examples of summer bulbs include gladiolus, lilies, caladiums, and elephant ears. Some, like dahlias that flower in fall, can flower later in summer or for a longer time. Summer bulbs are not tolerant of cold temperatures and are only planted after the soil warms up and frost is no longer a threat. If you buy summer bulbs before planting time, it is best to store them in a cold dry position. 

red, yellow and pink tulips

Where to plant bulbs?

You can plant bulbs just about anywhere as long as you ensure that your bulbs have proper drainage and sunshine. Drainage is the most important factor to keep your bulbs from rotting. Loamy and sandy soil is best suited to ensure drainage and provide nutrients bulbs required. 

Bulbs may be cultivated in many ways: formal gardens, meadow gardens, dispersed around lawns, under trees, or carefully planted around beds and boundaries in gardens. In a field, several bulbs can naturalise and reproduce, returning year after year, so prepare carefully and you will have years of enjoyment from one planting.

Step by Step Guide

If you want to plant bulbs and see a beautiful garden, you should know where the bulbs are best planted. Avoid places where water collects, opt for free draining areas. You can even prop up soil to allow for greater drainage. Further, bulbs grow better in areas with access to the sun.

Here are few steps by step instructions on how to plant bulbs:

  1. Loosen the soil. The planting bed must be prepared to a depth of 8 inches. All rocks and weeds in the soil should be removed. 
  2. Mix organic matter and compost in the planting bed. Prepare the soil by loosening and mixing in organic material if needed for added nutrients or to improve drainage. 
  3. Bulbs have different planting depths. Read the label carefully and check how deep your bulbs should be planted. Depth is important for bulbs. If planted too deep, they will bloom late or not at all. If planted too shallow, new growth may become exposed too soon and risk damage by cold temperatures. If you are unsure of the exact planting depth, a good general rule of thumb is to plant the bulb 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulb is tall.
  4. Once the bulbs are planted, you should fill back the soil and compress it. Don’t pack the soil too hard. If needed, protect bulbs from insects by staking down wire mesh or chicken wire over the beds or planting them in bulb baskets or wire cages. 
  5. Lastly, water to stimulate the roots into growth.  

Spring bulbs

What are the after-care practices for bulbs?

All bulbs require fertilizing and aftercare. To get the most out of your bulbs, use feed to grow the brightest and healthiest bulbs.

Cut the flower stem back after blooming. Leave the foliage intact till it turns yellow and eventually wilts to the ground. The leaves are left to store energy for next year. If the foliage is cut back to too soon, bulbs may not be able to reproduce and regrow in the following year. 

For spring bulbs in warmer climates bulbs that require chilling can be dug up and stored until pre-chilling time the following fall. For colder climates, they can stay in the ground. Many will multiply and return year after year.

For summer bulbs in warmer climates, bulbs can be left in the ground with a layer of mulch in winter to protect and insulate them. In colder climates, they'll need to be dug up and stored until the following spring.

Some of the best bulbs to begin your adventure would be hyacinths, crocus, tulips, snowdrops, Himalayan Onion, Pink Spider, Lily, Chesapeake Snowflake, Florist's Cyclamen and Gentian Sage.

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