Planting Bulbs

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Planting Bulbs

Person planting multiple bulbs in soil

Short Answer: Planting bulbs involves these steps:

  1. Choose a location with good drainage and adequate sunlight.
  2. Plant in the fall for spring blooms and in the spring for summer blooms.
  3. Prepare the soil by loosening it and adding compost.
  4. Plant bulbs at a depth of about two to three times their diameter, with the pointy end up.
  5. Space bulbs according to their size; larger bulbs need more space.
  6. Cover with soil and water well.
  7. Add mulch to conserve moisture and regulate soil temperature.
  8. Water periodically, especially during dry spells.

Planting bulbs is a great way to add seasonal color to garden beds and containers. You could have something blooming from late winter into fall with the right mix of bulbs. These must-know tips for how and when to plant all types of bulbs will help you grow the most gorgeous display.

Select Quality Bulbs

Bulb planting starts at the garden center with high-quality bulbs. Look for bulbs that are plump and firm. It’s typically best to avoid any soft, mushy, or mold growing on them. Also, look for big bulbs; the bigger they are, the more they generally bloom compared to smaller bulbs of the same variety.

Pick the Right Spot for Planting Bulbs

Planting bulbs, even if healthy, will fail if placed in the wrong spot. Most bulbs do best in full sun (at least 6 hours a day of direct sun) and well-drained soil. If you’re unsure where to plant bulbs, research the growing conditions needed for the type of bulb you’re producing.

Plant Bulbs at the Right Time

When you should be planting bulbs depends on when they bloom. Spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in September or October when the soil temperatures have cooled. Summer-blooming beauties such as dahlia and gladiolus are best planted in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Plant Bulbs Deep Enough

Not sure how deep a hole you need for planting bulbs? You’re not alone—it’s a very common question for gardeners. Generally, dig a hole two to three times deeper than the bulb is tall. So if you have a 3-inch-tall bulb, dig a hole 6 to 9 inches deep. Of course, there are always exceptions, so check the planting directions that come with the bulbs for more information.

Place Them Pointy Side up

The next most common question about planting bulbs is, “How do I know which side is up?” If the bulb has a pointed end, that’s usually the side that faces up. If you don’t see a pointy side, look for where the roots come out—that end goes down.

Provide Good Soil

Like most plants, bulbs appreciate well-drained soil rich in organic matter. So mix compost into your bulbs’ planting holes to ensure good blooming. This is especially important if you have heavy clay soil or ground that stays wet.

Stop Weeds

Besides being just plain ugly, weeds steal nutrients from the soil and may attract insects or diseases. The easiest way to prevent weeds from being an issue is to spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch over the soil. Your bulbs will easily push up through it, but most weed seeds won’t.

Water Well

Bulbs are plants, too, so they appreciate a good drink after you plant them. This will encourage them to send out roots and become established more quickly. Good watering will eliminate air pockets in the soil that could also cause your bulbs to dry out.

Protect Your Investment

Critters such as squirrels love digging up freshly planted bulbs like tulips. To keep animals away, spread a layer of mulch to hide your bulb holes. If that doesn’t help, weigh a piece of mesh or chicken wire over the soil to keep critters from digging. Removing the protective mesh or wire should be safe after the bulbs sprout from the ground.

Overwinter Tender Bulbs

If you live in a cold winter climate where the ground freezes and want to save your tender summer bulbs, such as canna, you’ll need to store them in a frost-free place over the winter. An easy way to do this is by planting bulbs in containers and then sinking those containers in the ground. Dig up the containers and store them in a garage, basement, or shed that stays about 40 to 55°F at the end of the season.

Plant in Groups

Person planting multiple bulbs in soil

Most bulbs look best when planted in significant, irregular groupings (the more bulbs, the more impressive the impact) instead of straight rows. So try tossing them onto the ground and plant them where they fall. It’s OK if some bulbs are a little closer to each other than the recommended spacing—it adds to the natural look.

Layer Perennial Bulbs

For a dramatic show of spring-flowering bulbs, plant smaller perennial species such as crocus or Siberian squill over larger bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and lilies. That way, you’ll get twice the color in the same space.

Plant Bulbs in Containers

Most bulbs do just as well in containers as in the ground. Create pots of spring joy with your favorite tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths by sinking them in the ground so they avoid the winter chill. Or you can store the containers in a cold garage or storage shed. When the bulbs fade, replace them with warm-weather favorites such as callas, cannas, or caladiums for summer-long beauty.

Naturalize Spring Bulbs

Naturalizing early spring bulbs in your lawn is a fun way to add color to your landscape. Siberian squill is one of the best bulbs to plant in lawns because they bloom early in the season and begin dying back before your lawn needs mowing. Wait to mow until the bulb foliage has already started fading, or you might not get many blooms the following year. Avoid using any lawn herbicides until the bulbs have gone completely dormant.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.