I got the shipping notification late last week that my bulb (purchased, after much deliberation, from Longfield Gardens) were at last on their way. I’m doing tulips (which I’ve done before) but also alliums of various sizes (which I have not). Earlier this year, on the advice of a gardening friend, I also invested in an AUGER SET (here’s the one I got) to attach to my drill and make my life easier. I also got a massive thing of bone meal, which I know should go in the bottom of the hole. I’ll get to that this weekend.
I’ll keep you posted on how that goes, but I’m also such a newbie at this that I’d love to hear about all of your expertise about bulbs and rhizomes AT ANY POINT. Case in point: my mom came over last week and told me to brush off even more earth from the irises I planted in late August just to make sure they don’t rot.
So if you’ve been doing bulbs for some time: what have you learned? What are your tried and true practices? What are you thinking of changing up?
And because this is always a new-gardener-friendly space: if you’re new to bulbs, what are your questions? Make sure to come back to the thread after you’ve posted, it’s lovely here.
And as always, if you know someone who’d like Garden Study, please forward this their way — but make sure to guide them to the specific way to *opt-in* to Garden Study emails, which you can find here.
I hope it’s ok to post something tangential. This is the first year since moving into our house that I won’t be planting bulbs. I’m following a new treatment regimen for chronic pain that emphasizes rest and realized that bulb planting will be too taxing for me. Which isn’t actually a big deal, but it feels like a loss to me. One of the joys of gardening is the way it connects you to seasons and the earth and this year I haven’t been able to keep up with most of my rituals. I just needed a space to describe my feelings, so thank you.
I usually plant new tulips every year, because a lot of them aren't reliably perennial. I'm in a new house, though, with a lot more critter activity, so I'm not even going to bother this year. I'm planting 'Greengarden' and 'Ambon' daffodils, crocus and muscari. I hope to get them in the ground in this week. My soil temp is consistently at 50 degrees now (you want it to be 40-50 before you plant).
I don't use bone meal or bulb fertilizer. The bulb has everything it needs inside of it, and I haven't found using it makes a difference. I plant mine trench style, rather than digging a bunch of individual holes. It's so much easier, and I find it makes it easier to get natural looking clumps and drifts. A word of caution about the augers: they've skyrocketed in popularity, thanks in large part to a huge gardening influencer, but they can be dangerous. If you've got rocky and/or clay soil, or you have a lot of large tree roots, please be very careful.
The only other really key point about bulbs, is to make sure you let the foliage die down before you cut it back. Everyone hates the look of spent bulb foliage, but the bulb is using it to gather strength for next year's bloom. Don't braid it, or tie it; just let it die down. This is where interplanting becomes key, because the new spring foliage of things like peonies, bleeding heart, and hardy geraniums can help cover it up.
I am a huge fan of grape hyacinths aka muscari. They look beautiful planted in clumps across the front of a border, and smell wonderful. They are a lovely cut flower, too, in a little vase or a cream bottle. I dig a hole and drop in five at a time. My next favorite are daffodils. They are more weather hardy than tulips, and squirrels generally ignore them. They also will hybridize nicely. Pink daffodils are a delight.
My bulbs just arrived yesterday and it is not quite cold enough here in Zone 5 to plant, so I usually plant in November. My one tip for the newbies: plant bulbs in containers. These will give you color and allow you to experiment without having to commit to 100 of something.
Toronto area, Zone 5ish
I have been obsessed with spring bulbs for years and have planted thousands in my yard (over the 20 years of owning this house). I try every year to NOT buy more but have failed most years. The biggest challenge is narrowing down which ones to choose. I just can't get enough of them. Tulips are my favourite and I've been adding to my collection of parrots for the last couple of years in particular. They're so quirky & fun looking!
No special tricks to them that I've found, just throw in some bone meal and plant them deeper than it suggests to try to deter the squirrels. If you also like daffodils, you can plant them together with tulips and that seems to help as well. I was worried about planting them deeper being a deterrent to blooming, but that hasn't been an issue. If anything I was probably planting them too shallow in the past and making it too easy for the squirrels!
I really want to try a lasagna bulb pot this year (also an excuse to buy more bulbs!). Not sure it'll handle our winter, but I'm going to try anyways. Then it'll be a fun challenge to find annuals to plant on top that look great while the bulb foliage dies off.
I ordered some giant alliums this year that I'm excited to see in Spring as well. The flowers are the size of a kid's head!
One of these years I'm going to buy a bazillion crocus bulbs and plant them in my lawn. I love the time lapse videos of how it grows in spring! Definitely buying a bulb auger for that project!
I planted a bunch of allium last year, no effort at all, probably not deep enough and most of them were all perfectly fine. I do have two really tall (like 10 feet) crazy ones that insist on sprouting way too early and they survived an insane winter here in zone 6. They bloomed in the summer and already have sprouted again (not deep enough?). We'll see how they do next spring!
I have finally realized what my dumb mental block is on buying/planting blubs is, and it is this: linear time.
How do you prevent gaps in your garden when the flowers and foliage of early bloomers are done? Like, if I plant a bed with tulips or crocuses, when they're done, that bed will be empty, right? I don't grow anything from seed, so can I just plop some starters right on top of crocus blubs in May (I'm 7A/7B)?
My brain is stuck on "one plant go in one place."
I started planting bulbs in autumn 2021 after bulbs, especially crocuses, bringing me joy from my neighbours in the dark lockdowny days of winter 20/21. It's a definite gift to my future self. I've planted crocus, tulips, and this year I've also planted anemones and aliums. I'm in Scotland and it's been WET this year so I'm not sure how that'll treat my bulbs. Fingers crossed! Farmer Gracy is my supplier tip for UK gardeners.
I'm in Toronto, Canada and I have a real problem with squirrels digging up bulbs. They don't like to eat daffodil bulbs as much as they like to eat tulip bulbs, but they still dig them up (I guess to see what they are).
I wait until the absolute last possible moment to put my bulbs in the ground. Yes, they should go in before the hard frost, but I find it doesn't matter when. I've planted bulbs in October, November, and even December and had them come up the same in the spring. The only difference is that the later you wait, the less time the squirrels have to dig before the ground is frozen solid.
So even though I *could* plant bulbs now (mid-October), I'm not going to for at least another 6 weeks.
7B NYC: I planted my first hundred bulbs last year. I'd never done it before and was a little bit afraid; also, I ordered on a whim way too late, so I didn't even plant them until December 29 (which was after our first freeze, and is too late in most places). Nothing sprouted even through early May, and I thought that they'd all died because I'd timed them wrong...but then the daffodils came up, two months late, and were amazing to see in my very-new garden....and then the camassia, which I'd never seen in person before, shot up in the shade section and were gorgeous (till aphids devoured them). Then the Asian lilies and a single honey garlic: I couldn't believe that flowers so pink and gigantic had come out of my little construction-rubble knotweed-infested mud hole.
Although the flowers were great, the most encouraging thing happened when I was planting shrubs this fall. I had to dig up several daffodil bulbs that were in my way...and found that they had expanded hugely and were ready to divide. I knew that bulbs did that, but I tend not to have high hopes for my plants (bad gardener!) and was shocked to find that they'd flourished underground. There were about 15 new little bulblets to plant.
This year I've ordered 200 more bulbs. Some new daffodils and lilies, white camassia, alliums (which were indeed too late last year, I think, and didn't grow), and my first tulips, crocus, virginia bluebells, martagon lilies, and snowflakes. Last time the planting was kind of a lark, but this time, I'm using them as markers: they'll go in clumps around where I've planted herbaceous perennials, so that 1. their dead foliage will be covered up by the succession plants, but also 2. they'll kind of protect each other, reminding me at different seasons where other things are dormant and shouldn't be dug up.
This fall I’m going to try starting bulbs from seed: lilies, alliums, calochortus, and these really great fritillaries that just got delivered yesterday. Never done it before, and some of these guys are real iffy--but I’m reminding myself that trying new things and learning from them is how you develop garden skills. (I’m aware they need drainage and dry summers and that it’ll take years before they get big enough to bloom.) Would love guidance/encouragement! 10b / San Diego.
Zone 7a. Scilla bulbs were a magical surprise the first spring in my new house. Light purple star-shaped flowers that come up after the daffodils are done.
I see a lot of references to blood, bone, and fish meal in this forum. What are non-animal/plant-based alternatives that have worked for you?
Zone 5 a/b depending on Lake Michigan: for some reason, and despite the fact I have planted 100s of daffodil bulbs, they do not enjoy my yard for long. It very well could be squirrels but I always assumed they didn’t bother established bulbs, just the “loose” ones. It bums me out because I want daffodils!
My favorite bulb source is Old House Gardens. I went to a lecture by the founder who is a landscape historian, who said that when you see a clump of daffodils in the middle of a field or a forest or whatever, it is a sign of 1800s settlers/homestead attempts, because those bulbs were just their idea of a decorative front garden. You see this around Michigan rural areas. Landscape historian might be one of my fantasy careers...
Ok I have three things I've learned. I'm in zone 5B in Western Mass.
1. You can plant bulbs suuuuper late. As long as you can work the soil, you can plant bulbs. I was planting them up until January last year. Everything came up. I also think it helps with the squirrel and vole situations to plant as late as possible.
2. If you're planting daffodils or crocuses outside of a bed—like in a lawn or near the side of the woods in order to naturalize—toss them gently and plant them where they land. They end up looking like they were always there.
3. It's not the worst thing in the world to plant everything a lot closer together than is recommended. Tulips look wonderful when they're very close together and since most varieties are treated as annuals there's no reason to give them that much space. But even with other bulbs, I prefer to group them more closely than recommended and then divide them every few years.
Honestly I've found the biggest enemy in bulb-gardening are the squirrels. My mother used to plant rows of tulips & crocuses, and within a week there'd be little holes dug-out all over the garden.
The squirrels have been such a nuisance here in the PNW that my Grandmother, when I was a kid, used to send me out with a gigantic squirt gun to spray the squirrels away (lol).
I order tulip and daffodil bulbs from tulips.com, which is Roozengaarde in the Skagit Valley. It's my spiritual mecca trip every spring. My husband truly doesn't understand why I need to go every year. Heathen that he is. I plant them in my big front containers and screen them against those little bastard squirrels. When the dafs pop up, I invariably send pictures to friends saying "we made it!". I also give bulbs for housewarming presents. I'm too lazy to do whatever it takes to store the bulbs over the summer and the bulbs too big to plant annuals over them. I give them to a friend every year and she has the most lovely tulip and daffodil display garden behind her garage!
For the first time, we’ve planted a bunch of bulbs and rhizomes this year and are excited for a spring flower garden in our normal vegetable beds. I’m pregnant and won’t be able to do the intensive vegetable gardening I’m used to in the spring and early summer, so we wanted a less maintenance-intensive garden approach for this year. We interspersed six types of bulbs and I look forward to seeing how they all grow together!
I am an extremely lackadaisical bulb-planter. I end up dumping them all into a bag and throwing handfuls into the areas I want to plant, sprinkling bone meal straight from the box over the general area, and then dumping new bags of soil over them. This method has served my daffodils well for years, and this fall I'm adding in tulips and grape hyacinths, which I know will go feral within a few years. It's 70 outside of Seattle today so I'm still not ready to drop bulbs in just yet. Maybe next week?
Ok, how about a short "bulbs for dummies" primer? Bulbs are things you plant when it gets cold, that then come up early in the spring. What else do I need to know? What is a rhizome? How do I know which flowers come from bulbs? Do they come back year after year? !!!
I just want you people to know that now I just placed a $200 order over at tulips.com.
I'd blame you all, but I was going to do it anyways. This time, though, there was more to choose from because I didn't wait for the last minute.
This makes me think of a family trip to the Netherlands where we went to see the tulip farms and gardens. We came back with tulip, hyacinth and crocus bulbs, which still bloom every year (I think it's the same ones?).
The best part is the violet carpet of crocuses that comes up every early spring underneath the plum tree.
I have lived on Nantucket Island for years. We have a ritual “Daffodil Weekend” so everyone plants them like crazy. This is how I learned that rabbits hate them and if you plant your other bulbs mixed in with your Daffys they too will be saved. I have recently moved off Island and this seems to be working in this garden as well.
Here is what I do. I have a fairly small yard (that I absolutely PACK with a few hundred bulbs every year). I have dedicated two beds that are under crape myrtle trees to perennialized daffodils, with a few other things- muscari, hyacinth, wild species tulips, and hellebores. I pretty much leave these alone. Then I plant my tulips densely in trenches throughout my yard (plus anemones and, some years, ranunculus). The tulips are like eggs in a carton- clumpy. I treat my tulips as one season annuals due to my space constraints and because I like to use them for cutting. I cut my daffodils too but don't dig them up.
I'm in DC (7a, I think, still learning) and wanted to plant some peonies this year. I've never tried my hand at bulbs before, and we've got squirrels and deer, despite being in the city. Any advice is welcome!
I just planted some cold-weather seedlings: Black-Eyed Susans and Snapdragons. It's all a big experiment for me, outdoors I usually just focus on my vegetable garden.
I'm an intent (my wife would say obsessed) bulb gardener, probably because the Wisconsin winters are so long and I really need that promise of spring color. Most years I just add things, but this year I dug up all (?) of the tulips because they were crowding each other out. Last week I took Wednesday afternoon and replanted about 600 bulbs, although half of those were really tiny and probably won't flower next year.
Has anyone else ever planted tulips under grass? I have a tiny yard and was reclaiming a part of it from the oregano, and I thought it would be fun to have tulips and then have it die back down to a grass/clover planted low-water lawn for the rest of the season.
I'm in Houston and my tulip success is totally dependent on how cold the winter ends up being. I don't even bother to place my order until November, and they go into the ground sometime in December, sometimes even January, when I am certain we're not going to have a warm up.
I usually order from tulips.com, though I've been known to just pick up packs at Home Depot. Usually I have a sort of plan as my husband hovers in the hopes I don't plant the tulips in a place HE has plans for. Sometimes they're utterly spectacular (2018 and 2021 had good freezes, so the tulips were amazing), and sometimes I'm lucky if even half come out (last winter was a bummer). I used to dig them up, but they usually are rotten by the time I get around to it, so I have taken to assuming they're a sunk cost. Not once has one come back.
My mother has convinced me daffodils will do better, so I'm throwing a few dozen in this year to see what happens.
How do you get tulips or bulbs in an attractive clump? The directions always say to plant X" down, X" apart, and then I end up with long rows of bulbs. Is it really OK to just through multiple tulip bulbs in one hole? How many in a clump?
New to bulbs here! Where is your favorite place to buy bulbs? Bonus points for an online small business with unique-ish options! I’m in zone 9
It is too late to buy bulbs and do this?? I am the worst at remembering to buy them in time. I'm in zone 7a. I noticed there are a ton of bulbs on amazon - big mistake???
For my garden 7a, Knoxville, TN, it's all about protection. This past spring, we had some beautiful tulips come up ( planted by previous owners) and then the bulbs were promptly devoured by the copious squirrels, regular and ground variety, and probably the moles too. The foliage withered and died because there was nothing left under ground!
I have purchased wire mesh planting baskets to be used for any bulbs I decide to plant. Also things like allium are going to feature heavily in my replacement plantings. So disheartening to see but I'm hopeful to find the right mix AND deterrents.
Zone 8b PNW
I would like to know how other folks deal with wintering dahlias.
I have a couple of raised beds full of dahlias. I have approached “putting them to bed” as I call it in a couple of ways.
First year I had them (after the they died back from the inevitable frost) I dug them up and layered the tubers between pine wood shavings in a container that had slats of ventilation. Stored them in our garden shed. Checking periodically throughout winter. Some didn’t survive (rotted). In hindsight perhaps I should have dried out tubers before layering in pine shavings? 🤷♀️
Second and subsequent years after, I have left the tubers in the raised beds, put mulch and leaves over them. Covered the raised beds with black garden cloth that also allowed ventilation. I seemed to have better success with this approach. Hence doing it year after year.
I kinda like the idea of digging the tubers up after the vegetation dies off and subdividing the new growth from the old and then storing them. That way come next season, prep the raised bed and plant the tubers. Guidance, suggestions, ideas greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Zone 8 PNW (is that 8b?)
1. Ok - interplanting - what is and isn’t safe for this? I think I keep trying to interplant tulips with dahlias and that just doesn’t work. I’m giving that up this year. But, if I want to plant something else like zinnias on top of a place where I have tulip bulbs, is that ok??
2. Where should I order my bulbs from? Holland keeps sending me cheap deals. Is that like the worst?
My biggest win lately has been with ranunculus and anemones, technically corms. If I pre-sprout and pre-soak them, they do fantastically well for me. Generally, I order them in the spring, and they arrive in November. I immediately soak them until they plump up nicely 4-8 hours. Then I bury them in a light layer of vermiculite and perlite, in flat trays in the dark. They start sprouting in a week, and by two weeks, they are ready to go in the ground for spring blooms.
Zone 9b, central coast California
Bulbs in outdoor containers (Z6, low snow area)? Wine barrels specifically - thoughts?
No expertise but I purchased 100 daffodil bulbs this year. One thing I noticed was the squirrels dug many of them up--they didn’t eat them, just tossed them around a bit. Quite frustrating. I put them back. We’ll see how things are in the Spring; this is definitely a test 😊
I finally just became a paid subscriber and I am HERE for the Garden Study! I have a question that's probably more than a little stupid: how do you all deal with overwhelm and decision fatigue when deciding on what you want to plant for the year? I'm almost certain that it's my perfectionism speaking but an hour after getting excited about all the beautiful bulbs I want to lasagna-plant in my front yard containers, I get overwhelmed with trying to figure out the perfect combination of plants that I need to buy and develop a pit in my chest from agonizing over my shopping card too much. Anyone else experiences this? Any tips on how to deal with garden planning overwhelm?
Wanted to put in a good word for saffron crocus bulbs as I didn't see anyone else mention them (I'm in 9b/10a border) -- I bought some two years ago and apparently they can take two years to flower but wow, so worth it. I've collected saffron from a few blossoms and you have to get out there to check every morning because the blossoms wilt in one day, but the smell is AMAZING and I'm excited to have more saffron over the next little while.
Zone 5b Northern IL (NW of Chicago) - I decided not to do tulips this year but got a lovely daffodil mix and some more allium. I'm planting more daffodils where I have some beebalm because I noticed a neighbor does this and it's so cool to have spring/summer plants doing their thing with the seasons. Tons of squirrels here so I'll be covering the daffs with some wire mesh. Also getting garlic into the ground. All of this takes a ton of work and a toll on my body due to chronic arthritis. But it makes a nice break from work (I work from home) to just get outside and do a bit of digging and planting.
I Have no recommendations but am planning to plant bulbs soon in the house I moved into almost exactly a year ago! Zone 7b. Excited to see what works, what doesn’t, and garden more next spring now that we have a better grasp on what areas get sun, etc.
Cayenne pepper. Buy in bulk to keep the squirrels away.
best bulbs for western mass? i am a TOTAL newbie.
This is incredibly timely. I bought a bunch of crocus and ranunculus only to realize I can only plant ranunculus in the spring in my zone. Any tips for crocus planting would be much appreciated!
Also if anyone has suggestions on where to buy the best tulip bulbs, paste a link below!
I'm new to bulbs, and without any garden, I'm making the most of a couple of window boxes on my northwest facing windows (in the UK). I've been reading about bulb lasagnes and keen to try, but also worried they just won't work!
No one else has mentioned puschkinia - these are short guys that, to me, smell like sour blueberry candy. Lovely light blue hyacinth- like blooms. I have them everywhere. Also: corydalis. Gorgeous foliage that looks like Columbine, and short pink blooms that make an impact planted en masse.
I love bulbs, but I stick to irises! My favorite!
Just a note that a lot of good bulbs are on sale from my fave Bluestone Perennials: https://www.bluestoneperennials.com/plant-finder/?disc=sale&banner=Specials&sort=priceAsc
Zone 7a, mid-Atlantic coast USA
Not a bulb but I have a small plot that I tried to establish asparagus in, but it got trampled when we built a trellis for the grapes that grow behind that plot, and they never recovered. I want to try again soon- I miss their frothy fern arrays and would love to be able to pick from my own asparagus patch in future years, but they take SO long to establish and are SO fussy. Sigh. I am really hoping to interplant them with the strawberry patch I’ve been building right in front of the planned asparagus plot, because I keep reading that they’re good companions, so maybe someday it’ll work. With my luck, the asparagus will only fully establish once we’re ready to sell the house.
One tip I learned somewhere online (maybe from this community??) is to mark where I planted bulbs with a golf tee (and mark where already planted bulb plants are with a golf tee before the plants die back) so that in times when those plants are invisible, I can keep track of where they are the next time I plant bulbs.
A bit sideways to the topic of bulbs but related to the auger - do you have a garden study piece on gardening tools/aides, particularly for gardeners with chronic pain? If yes I need to bookmark that one.
Ooh, that auger set! Why am I doing things the hard way?