Planting Bulbs Now Get Payback Later

Let’s face it. There are some chores in the landscape that you just dread. This is the time of year, however, for a chore that I actually look forward to –fall bulb planting.

And those who know me know that these are some of my favorite flowers. I have them planted everywhere around my home. I think my love of blub type flowers came from my grandmother, Ms. Gussie Brewer, she adored these mighty flowers.

She would always say you can enjoy the beautiful fall colors while you plant and eagerly anticipate the wonderful spring flowers that will result from your handiwork.

Fall is the correct time to plant many bulbs in the home garden. Planting in the fall insures that the bulb will receive the natural chilling that is required in order for proper flowering. In addition, fall planting allows the bulb to develop a strong root system to support those spring flowers.

The larger garden centers have had a good selection of flowering bulbs on hand since the end of summer. Most bulbs are hardy across the state of Georgia. It is important to remember, however, that not all bulbs perennialize. In other words, they tend to fizzle out (that’s a technical term.) after only a few years. Tulips and hyacinths, for example, die out after a very few years because our warm temperatures shorten the length of time foliage remains on the plant.

When selecting your bulbs, look for bulbs that are heavy, firm and unblemished. Bulbs that are bruised, soft, or have surface cuts may be prone to rotting after planting. Most bulbs perform best in full sun. It is important to remember that many bulbs will perform well in light shade under deciduous trees. The bulbs flower before leaves are set and have already begun to decline before heavy shade develops.

Always be sure to select sites that are well drained. Bulbs can tolerate a wide range of soil types but they are unforgiving of wet soil conditions. In moist areas you may want to consider building a raised bed to promote good soil drainage.

Bulbs can vary tremendously in size and shape. The question everyone asks is, "how deeply should I plant my bulbs?" Well, the rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at a depth that is about three times the diameter of the bulb. Large bulbs are planted more deeply than smaller bulbs. If bulbs are planted too deeply they may "run out of gas" before the developing shoot reaches the surface. When planted too shallow they are more prone to moisture stress and winter injury.

The spacing for bulbs in the landscape varies according to the size of the bulb and the landscape effect that is desired. Small bulbs like grape hyacinth should be planted only about three inches apart while a large daffodil may need a spacing of up to 12 inches. Remember that the closer bulbs are planted, the sooner they will need to be divided. The most stunning effect in the landscape, however, is achieved when bulbs are planted in mass rather than widely scattered across the landscape.

In order to keep your bulbs healthy it is important to remember not to remove their foliage too quickly after flowering. Even after the flowers fade, the leaves of a bulb collect energy that is needed to produce the following year’s flowers. For best results, allow the foliage to remain until it begins to wither naturally. That may take up to six weeks.