CO-Horts Blog

Monday, October 1, 2018

Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Color

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I've always dreamed of having a spring landscape filled with daffodils, crocus and tulips--one that made people drive by slowly, admiring the riot of color. I spent a spring in England during my undergraduate degree and their fields of daffodils were so beautiful...
Thousands of daffodils at a park in London (photo from Flower Magazine)
After a tough summer with countless hailstorms, my gardening motivation has withered. But the thought of starting next year with cheerful and colorful spring bulbs got me excited. So I indulged and bought bulbs. Lots and lots of bulbs. Too many bulbs. I got them home and thought to myself, "Oh no. Now I have to plant these things."
Lots and lots of bulbs to plant. Sigh.
I bought a total of 93 bulbs (allium, hyacinth, daffodils, tulips, crocus). I picked out my bulbs by hand, but if you're planting en masse, then purchasing in bulk is easier and likely cheaper. You can also time bulbs based on bloom period (early, mid or late spring) and color. Confession: I picked out a lot of my bulbs because of their name. For example, I had to buy the hyacinth 'Jan Bos'. Jan is my mom's name and we had a dog named Bosley growing up. Jan Bos!

After such a dry summer, the thought of trying to dig in our soils nearly made me go rest on the couch. But I didn't! And I got those bulbs planted. All of them. And here's how I did it:

Spring bulbs are pretty easy to work with. Essentially, you dig a hole, stick the bulb in, roots side down (pointy end up!), and cover with soil, and water in. Easy peasy. But the type of bulb and the depth at which you plant is important. You're aiming to plant the bulb about 3-4 times the height. So bigger bulbs need deeper holes. Small bulbs are just barely below the surface.
A little comparison of planting depths. Crocus are only 3" below the soil surface; daffodils can be up to 8", depending on the size of the bulb you're planting.
You can decide what bulbs you want to plant together...or have large clumps of the same type. In general, small bulbs will look better if planting in large patches. Large bulbs, like the giant alliums, can stand alone. Hyacinth have wonderful fragrance and the impact is better when in groups. Some bulbs will naturalize and form large clumps over the years (daffodils, squill). You can even plant big bulbs together with small bulbs in the same hole--you just fill in the hole with soil for the correct depths for the bulbs you're planting.
Daffodils just poking their heads out before they are planted.
I planted the bulbs in several areas throughout the front yard. I have planted bulbs in the past, so accidentally sliced a few of the older ones. Oops. But what's fun to see are the new roots that the old bulbs are forming. Check out these crocus:
Crocus that were uprooted during the new bulb plantings. I just tucked them back in.
Following planting, be sure to water in your bulbs and cover with mulch. If you have animals that like to dig up plants, place chicken wire over the top of the planting hole. Consider planting bulbs that are deterrents to animals, like frittilary, allium and snowdrops, among others.
Water in your bulbs and cover with mulch.
The great thing about bulbs is that you kind of forget you planted them and next spring it's a fun surprise to see them bloom! Just knowing the bulbs are there gives my tired fall garden a boost. I'll try to remember to take photos in the spring for you.
(The tired fall garden.)
In the front of this bed I planted 30 crocus and small alliums.
Get out and plant some bulbs--our Front Range Colorado soils tend to stay warm until November, so try to plant by mid-October so that the bulbs can form new roots before the soil freezes. They also need several weeks of cold treatment in order to bloom in the spring. Need more information? Check out the CSU publication on fall planted bulbs. Oh, and should you fertilize? Well, I never fertilize anything in my landscape. The bulb you plant this year should have plenty of "oomph" to bloom next year. If you keep bulbs year-to-year, they will benefit from fertilizer following bloom next year.

The best part about planting was finding this praying mantid...she (he?) was perched on top of my rose, enjoying the beautiful fall day.....and waiting for something to eat.
Hello, world!

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