BULB PLANTING 101

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Spring blooming bulbs such as these tulip bulbs, as well as hyacinth, daffodil and crocus bulbs, are best planted when the weather is cold. This will encourage bulb root development and discourage leaf development. (Fred Lynch)

I had a visit the other day from Piet Stuifbergen, a native Hollander. Piet is a Dutch bulb grower and importer who lives in the Kansas City area. I am glad he stopped by, because with all of the warm weather we have been having, I forgot that now is the time to put those tulip, hyacinth, daffodil and crocus bulbs in the ground.

When asked by gardeners when is the best time to plant spring blooming bulbs, I always respond by saying "Buy your bulbs in the early fall when the selection at garden centers is the best. Then wait until we get cold weather around Thanksgiving and Christmas before you plant them."

Now you know why I forgot to plant spring blooming bulbs. There has not been enough cold weather for my reminder.

The rationale behind my statement results from the development sequence of spring flowering bulbs. Bulbs need to go into the ground when the weather is cold. Cool temperatures encourage bulb root development and discourage leaf development. If you plant bulbs too early (when temperatures are warm) in the fall, leaf development occurs first at the expense of root development. The result is often poor flower development in the spring.

If you haven't purchased your bulbs, hurry down to your local garden center and make your bulb selections. Then take them home and enjoy one of the few nice warm afternoons left while planting them.

Bulbs come in different colors, different heights and different bloom times. Ask the clerk at your local garden center how to mix or match bulb varieties in order to get the display you want.

I like to amend the soil with peat moss in the area where I am going to plant bulbs. If your soil has a lot of clay in it, the peat moss will help make the soil crumbly. If your soil is sandy, the organic matter will help hold moisture and nutrients.

Next, use a bulb planter, trowel or a bit in a cordless drill to dig the hole where the bulb or bulbs are to be planted. Place a small amount of bone meal at the bottom of the hole and cover it with a thin layer of soil. Bone meal, high in phosphorous, will encourage the bulb to produce lots of roots.

I like to coat bulbs with powdered sulfur before I place them in the hole. The sulfur will discourage squirrels, moles and voles from disturbing the bulb. Next, place the bulbs in the hole and cover with the excavated soil.

For a good show next spring, plant several bulbs in a clump. I have seen some beds planted with hundreds of bulbs together. It is breathtaking in the spring when all are in bloom.

I'm sure glad Piet showed up. Now all I have to do is start planting.

Send your gardening and landscape questions to Paul Schnare at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702-0699 or by email to news@semissourian.com.

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