spring bulb planting guideThere is no limit to the number of ways you can utilize bulbs in your garden. Be it in a garden bed or patio setting, bulbs can provide any combination of beautiful flowers, bright colours, and excellent fragrance. The following text offers a rich bulb planting guide. 

Though this isn’t necessarily the case with other plant types, bigger is almost always better when it comes to selecting bulbs. The larger the bulb, rhizome, tuber, or corm, the healthier and more vigorous the eventual plant is likely to be.

Planting Spring Bulbs

If your bulbs come with instructions, follow the recommendations on the label of each type of bulb. If there are no instructions, a general rule is to plant your bulbs at a depth that is three times the diameter of the bulb.

Dig your hole and sprinkle a phosphorus-rich fertilizer (that’s the middle number on the fertilizer package) in the bottom of the planting hole. Bone Meal works great for this purpose (2-14-0). Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end up. Cover the bulb with an inch of soil and water it thoroughly immediately. Now, fill in the rest of the hole with soil and water thoroughly once more. If your soil is particularly heavy, consider working some compost into the top layer of soil around your bulbs to help improve some of the issues with clay soil.

Once you’ve followed the above steps and have watered your new bulbs, do not water them again until you see shoots appear.

Watering and Fertilizer

Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) throughout the growing season, and use a recommended flower or bulb fertilizer.

General Instructions for Winter Storage

Throughout the growing season, the foliage of your bulbs will harness the sun’s energy and store it underground to be used the following spring to push out new growth. In cold winter areas, spring bulbs must be dug up as winter approaches to save them for next year. If you’re not keen on trying to store bulbs over the winter, that’s ok – just treat them as an annual.

Stop watering two to three weeks before the first frost to encourage dormancy. Carefully dig up the bulbs after the first killing frost freezes the top growth. Be careful not to damage the bulb! Dry your bulbs for a week in a dark, well-ventilated area, and store them in an open paper bag or nylon stocking. Cover your bulbs with dry peat moss or vermiculite so they don’t touch one another. Bulbs are best stored at 10 to 15°C.

Special Instructions for Calla Lilies

You can dig out your Calla tubers when all of the leaves have yellowed and dried in September. (If you grew your Calla in a pot, gradually reduce your watering levels as the leaves yellow and die.) Lay the pot on its side in a cool place and allow it to completely dry out.

Special Instructions for Canna Lilies

Dig up the rhizomes of your canna with some soil after the first killing frost. Clean them and store them in (very) slightly moist peat moss in a cool location.

Special Instructions for Dahlia Tubers

After the first killing frost, dig up your dahlia tubers. Remove any extra soil and broken roots, and then stand them upside-down for one week to allow them to dry out. Store them in a dry, cool area in peat moss.

Special Instructions for Gladiolus Corms

Allow the leaves of your Gladiolus to wither naturally for six to eight weeks after flowering before you dig them up. Remove the top of the plant close to the beginning of the corm. Leave it to dry for one day, and then store it in an open box of peat in a cool, dark place for the winter.

Special Instructions for Lilies

You can leave lilies alone as long as they continue to bloom reliably. Remove spent flowers and gradually cut back the associated stems. Continue fertilizing them over the growing season to ensure good bulb formation for the following year. You can remove and plant any bulblets (small bulbs) that appear in rich, well-drained soil. Remember that some lily species may also naturally spread.

*Information courtesy of Landscape Ontario.