Bulbs are a delightful addition to many spring gardens. However, to enjoy them in the spring, many must be planted in the fall. The term “bulb” is a general horticultural term which refers to all underground storage organs planted in the fall. To the botanist, daffodils and tulips have true “bulbs” like onions, crocus has “corms” and anemones have “rhizomes.” Mid-September to mid-October is the best time to plant bulbs in Minnesota. This will allow ample time for the bulbs to become well rooted before the ground freezes.

Remember, there is a direct correlation between the size of a bulb and the size of the flower grown from that bulb. Visit your local nursery or garden center that offer bulbs for sale in open bins, if possible, and select large bulbs that are firm, free of exterior blemishes and not shriveled.

Bulbs should be given full sun if possible. This greatly improves their vigor and tends to increase their longevity in the garden. Daffodils, crocus and many of the minor bulbs tend to survive for years in the garden and, if given reasonable care, will establish themselves as permanent garden residents. Tulips, hyacinths and a few of the larger bulb species such as fritillaria tend to be short-lived and persist for only two to four years. A sunny, well-drained site and good care will extend their stay in the garden.

Planting depth will vary with the type of bulb being planted, but the general rule of thumb is 2-3 times the height of the bulb. (Look for literature at your nursery for directions on bulb planting.) Plant pointy side UP!! (Harder with corms: look for the rooting structure on the underside of the bulb, this goes down.) Don’t forget to purchase a few extra bulbs to force when the winter winds blow. Nothing is more cheering than tulips and daffodils blooming on your windowsill in the middle of March.

At planting, apply bone meal or super phosphate (0-20-0) to the bottom of the planting bed according to package directions, and incorporate completely. (If only individual planting holes are dug, incorporate a teaspoon full of bone meal in the soil at the bottom of each hole.) Position the bulbs at the desired spacing and then fill the planting hole. Apply two pounds of 13-13-13 per 100 square feet on the surface of the bed and water thoroughly. Bulbs do best when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. Not sure of your pH? Visit https://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/ to learn how to get your soil tested.

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At a loss for what to plant? Why not try:

Narcissus (Daffodils) Height 6-20 inches. Width 4-6 inches. Planting depth 5-8 inches. Bloom color: white, pink/rose, yellow/gold, orange, bicolor. Landscape uses: containers, beds, borders. Special features: cut flowers, drought tolerant, deer resistant

Galanthus (Snow Drops) Height 4-9 inches. Width 2-3 inches. Planting depth 2-3 inches. Bloom color: white with green accents. Landscape uses: containers, beds, borders, slopes, mass plantings, woodland, rock, meadow gardens. Special features: fragrant, deer/rodent resistant.

Tulips Height 6-30 inches. Width, to 6 inches. Planting depth 5-8 inches. Bloom color: white, pink/rose, blue/violet/lavender, red, yellow/gold, orange, green, bicolor. Landscape uses: containers, beds, borders. Special features: fragrant, cut f;owers, drought tolerant, deer/rodent susceptible

For more information about bulbs, visit extension.umn.edu/how/planting-bulbs-tubers-and-rhizomes.

Until next time, happy gardening!


"To pick a flower is so much more satisfying than just observing it, or photographing it ... So, in later years, I have grown in my garden as many flowers as possible for children to pick." ~ Anne Scott-James

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at trot0053@umn.edu.