Imagine a garden where flowers automatically grow without you having to do anything. Well, with flower bulbs, exactly this can happen. Although you will have to initially plant them, afterward, flower bulbs will pop up each subsequent year.
When to plant flower bulbs: Flower bulbs come in a wide variety but there are two main categories. Spring bulbs should be planted in the fall, before the first frost. These bulbs are cold hardy and do well with most winter temperatures. They will begin to sprout in the spring, starting with snowdrops and crocuses, and ending with tulips and alliums. Summer bulbs should be planted in the spring, once the threat of frost is over. These flowers will then bloom in the summer before dying off in late summer or early fall. If you live in a mild area, you can leave summer bulbs in the ground during winter. However, if you have very cold winters, you may need to dig them up to protect them. This is especially true if you plant your summer bulbs in containers as they won’t be insulated enough to survive.
Planting Flower Bulbs in Different Climates
Flower bulbs need time to become dormant or else they will go through all of their stored nutrients. While you can grow bulbs in a tropical climate, you will need to be diligent to pull them up after a season to allow them a dormancy phase.
Growing flower bulbs in a dry climate are difficult but not impossible. These flowers will need water so you will need to regularly hand water them, especially once they start to grow and bloom.
A temperate climate is perfect for flower bulbs. The mild winter temperatures mean that most bulbs can stay in the ground through the winter.
You can definitely grow flower bulbs in a continental climate. However, while most spring bulbs can stay in the ground in the winter, you will have to check and dig up a lot of your summer bulbs. The colder winter temperatures can be too much for these sensitive bulbs.
Some flower bulbs can actually do ok in a polar climate. Think cold-hardy bulbs, such as snowdrops and some crocuses. You may want to insulate the bulbs when they are in the ground over winter or shift your growing season to accommodate the temperatures.
Choosing Flower Bulbs
Flower bulbs usually fall into two categories: spring flower bulbs and summer flower bulbs. Planting a mix of them will ensure continual color in your garden.
Spring Flower Bulbs
Small in size but bold in color, crocuses benefit from being planted in clumps so that they don’t get lost. These are early bloomers and will brighten your garden in March and April.
Coming in all different shades of colors, tulips are a gorgeous sight to behold. You can find tulips that come in one color or multi-colors and they are an excellent pop of color in May.
With traditional shades of yellow, daffodils are a perfect spring bulb that will generally flower in April or May. You can find large or small blooming varieties
Part of the onion family, allium flowers have long green stalks and a burst of purple flowers in a globe-like pattern. These flowers will bloom in May and as a bonus, are deer resistant.
Summer Flower Bulbs
With flamboyant blooms, these lilies come in many different shades of color and will really make your garden pop. They will flower in the early months of summer.
With subtle shades of yellow, orange, and peach, begonias have a luscious quality to them, thanks to their many layers of petals. They will blossom throughout summer and even do well in partly shady areas.
Those that grow dahlias understand just how mesmerizing these flowers are. They come in all shapes and sizes but be careful as dahlia tubers can’t withstand very cold winters so you may have to dig them up in the fall before planting again in the summer.
How to Plant Flower Bulbs
There are two main categories of flower bulbs: those that flower in the spring and those that flower in the summer. Knowing which ones you want to purchase and grow will determine when you plant.
Spring flowering bulbs need to be planted in the fall. September to October is best as you want the bulbs in the ground before the threat of the first fall.
Depending on which type of spring-flowering bulbs you have, they can pop up as early as March, so waiting for spring to plant these bulbs is simply not an option. One benefit of spring bulbs is that they can withstand cold winter temperatures so you don’t have to dig them up each year.
Summer flowering bulbs are usually happiest if you plant them in the spring. Get them in the ground after the threat of frost is over, which is usually late April to May.
This may seem late in the season, but there will still be plenty of time for your summer bulbs to flower.
Unlike spring bulbs, summer bulbs might not do well during the cold winter months. Be sure to know how fragile the bulbs or tubers are, and what your local winter conditions are like.
If you live in an area with very cold winters, or you have summer bulbs in a container, then you may have to dig them up in the fall before replanting them in the spring.
Your bulbs will be in the soil for quite some time and, no matter what variety you end up with, they can be very susceptible to root rot. To avoid this, make sure the area you plant your bulbs in can drain well.
If you decide to plant your bulbs in containers, make sure there are plenty of drainage holes to prevent water from pooling. You can add sand, gravel, or organic matter to help break up the soil.
Placing the bulbs
Generally, you want the pointy part of the bulb to be facing upward when you put them in the soil. For larger bulbs, such as tubers, you can also look for small roots. These should be placed in the dirt.
Bulbs need to be about three inches deeper than ground level, so dig your holes appropriately. After planting, you can add a layer of leaves, especially if planting in the fall, to help insulate them from the cold.
How to Water Flower Bulbs
Overall, watering flower bulbs is pretty simple. Because they are underground for half the year, you can sort of ignoring them.
Water after you plant your bulbs to help them settle into the ground. However, because planting either occurs in the fall or the spring, there should naturally be plenty of rainfall to help with growth.
Most flower bulbs are planted next to other plants, so they will receive water by association.
Summer bulbs will need more water than spring bulbs because they will bloom during the hottest times of the year. In contrast, spring bulbs will die back before summer, and the bulbs will be just fine with occasional watering.
How to Grow Flower Bulbs
If you keep your bulbs in the ground year-round, you should add organic matter to the area at least once a year. Fall is a good time to add compost to your gardening area but be careful so as to not accidentally dig up your bulbs.
Cutting back foliage
After your flowers bloom, whether, in the spring or the summer, you may be tempted to clean up your plants. While you can cut back the spent blooms, you should leave the foliage alone.
Through the leaves, the bulbs underground will be able to store extra nutrients so that they can bloom bright the following year.
Wait a month or two before cutting back all the foliage. You can trim it to look nicer, but don’t cut everything back.
Where you live will determine if you can leave your bulbs in the ground during winter. Generally, spring bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, are hardier and you can leave them in the ground all year long.
Summer bulbs will vary. For example, dahlias are quite sensitive to the cold and should be dug up in the fall before being stored away and then replanted in the spring.
How long do flower bulbs take to grow?
Spring bulbs should be planted in the fall and then will bloom in the spring. Different varieties will be ready at different times. For example, snowdrops are ready in March while tulips aren’t ready until May.
Summer bulbs should be planted in the spring when the threat of frost is over. Then, they will bloom during the summer, with the exact month dependent on their variety.
There are many types of flower bulbs you can plant, with some hardier varieties that are ready in the spring and others that are more sensitive and prefer the warmth of summer. Plan your garden and after the initial planting, enjoy the continuous display of blooms.