How To: Plant Blooming Bulbs for Spring

There's nothing like a show of tulips, hyacinths or daffodils in the spring to get your blood flowing and your customers calling with kudos for a job well done. Whether you're planting in a residential or commercial setting, there are a few things to keep in mind and a few tricks you may want to try.

  1. Some spring bulbs are true perennials, while others with unreliable bloom for the second and successive years are treated as annuals. How the garden is to be used after the spring show will help determine from which bulbs you'll select. The presence of deer, squirrels, ground squirrels and other rodents may also affect your decision. Tulips and crocus are favorite foods for these critters. Wildlife do not like daffodils, and fritillaria and hyacinths are not often their first food choice.

  2. When planning your display, keep in mind that you need a lot of each type of bulb to make a show. It's tempting to cut back when you look at the cost of an individual bulb, but the payback for spending a few more dollars goes beyond your investment. Tulips can make a great show planted on 4- to 6-inch centers, depending on the type of tulip chosen. Sounds like a lot, but looks terrific. Tulips planted on 12-inch centers make a poor showing and can reduce your stature with your clients. Many suppliers have already calculated the number of bulbs per square feet for you.

  3. Soil preparation is essential for vigorous root growth. Till the area 12 inches deep. Most bulbs will not be planted this deeply, but you need to leave some room below for root development. Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13 or 10-10-10. This will provide the phosphorus and potassium needed to produce beautiful flowers and foliage. If you are planning on using a high-phosphorus product, choose superphosphate (0-18-0) or triple superphosphate (0-48-0) as your source of phosphorus. The often-promoted bone meal is very attractive to rodents, who then get bulbs for dessert.

  4. To plant, place the bulbs on the prepared soil using your trowel for spacing. Most sturdy trowels measure 12 inches long with the handle at 6 inches and the blade at 6 inches. I have some strong trowels that also have gradations marked along the blade — money well spent. The trowel is also handy for measuring planting depth. Depth depends on the bulb and is measured from the base (bottom) of the bulb to the soil surface — your supplier should be able to provide this information if it is not on the tag. Once the bulbs are laid out, you need only to insert the trowel to the desired depth, pull back on the soil and deposit the bulb (pointy side up) into the hole and lightly firm the soil around the bulb. If the bulbs have to absolutely be planted at the same depth to provide a formal, uniform display, you may want to dig out the soil to the planting depth, stockpiling the soil on a tarp and level out the bottom. Lay out the bulbs in the bottom of the bed at the proper spacing. Carefully replace the soil over the bulbs. Water in.

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To ensure a return on your investment, provide your bulbs with proper moisture over the winter. Irrigate every 3 to 4 weeks if there is no precipitation. Water the bulbs, encourage the roots and discourage the rodents.

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