Trott column: There’s still time to plant spring flowering bulbs
Bulbs can be planted in perennial borders, rock gardens, or naturalized in the lawn and wildflower garden. They are grown for beauty, fragrance, cut flower use, or combinations of these.
ALEXANDRIA — Many garden centers and big box stores are offering bulbs at deeply discounted prices, and local gardeners have asked whether there is still time to plant. The answer is a resounding YES! With the mild temperatures we’ve had so far and the extended forecast looking good, there is still plenty of time to get those bulbs in the ground. (If you can dig a hole, you can plant a bulb!)
Bulbs can be planted in perennial borders, rock gardens, or naturalized in the lawn and wildflower garden. They are grown for beauty, fragrance, cut flower use, or combinations of these. The informal growth of plants such as daffodils adapts well to naturalized plantings, but also does well in small groupings or foundation plantings. Tulips, on the other hand, are very formal and look best when planted in clumps or beds of one color. Hyacinths are so stately that a few plants carefully placed will provide colorful spring interest and fragrance.
The most important part of bulb planting is proper depth. As a rule of thumb, plant the bulb two to three times as deep as it is wide. Large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils will be planted about 8 inches deep and smaller bulbs like crocus will be planted 3 to 4 inches deep. Measure the planting depth from the bottom of the bulb. Bulbs should be planted with the nose of the bulb upward and the basal or root plate down. (pointy side up!) Special tools such as bulb augurs for the drill and hand diggers are available. Use these if they work better for you, but many prefer to dig individual holes with a hand trowel.
To encourage root development, many gardeners add phosphorus at planting time. The most common way to do this is to sprinkle a teaspoon of bone meal in the bottom of each hole, cover it with a little soil, and then place the bulb. You can also fertilize the shoots as soon as they break through the soil in the spring. Do not feed bulbs after they have started flowering.
Hungry rabbits, deer, voles, and squirrels can do lots of damage to your bulbs. Some will dig and eat the bulbs, while others will nibble the emerging stems. Placing a fine mesh fencing material, such as chicken wire, over the newly planted bulbs to prevent damage. Additionally, taste repellents can also be used in the spring; always follow label instructions when using animal repellents. Mulching bulbs with leaves or other organic materials once the ground has frozen can insulate the new planting during the cold winter months.
For more information about different types of bulbs and their care, visit: extension.umn.edu/how/planting-bulbs-tubers-and-rhizomes .
Until next time, happy gardening!
“A daffodil pushing up through the dark earth to the spring, knowing somehow deep in its roots that spring and light and sunshine will come, has more courage and more knowledge of the value of life than any human being I’ve met.” – Madeleine L’Engle
Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at trot0053@umn.