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All You Need to Know About Bulbs

They're the easiest most foolproof flowers you can grow. And some of the most beautiful, too. Best of all, they extend your spring gardening season by being in full bloom before most perennials are even out of the ground! Bright Daffodils and Tulips in luscious colors get your gardens off to a magnificent start. And while they're in bloom. you'll be popping in your summer bulbs-Glads, Dahlias, Caladiums and more that will give you easy-to-grow flowers all summer until frost. We always say, "No flowers bring more beauty with less work than bulbs."

Bloom Season Chart

Which Bulbs are Best in my Area?

It's simple. To bloom, fall-planted bulbs must have a freeze after you plant them. So almost everything is fine for most of No. America, from Canada to No. Florida. If you live in So. FL. on the Gulf Coast. So. TX. the desert SW or So. CA. you may be in an area that never freezes. There. you can't grow Tulips without special treatment. but you can plant Daffodils, most Lilies and many of the others. As for spring-planted bulbs. they're happy anywhere in North America.

Are Bulbs Winter Hardy?

Most fall-planted bulbs are. Daffodils. for example. return every year with more blooms, even in the coldest regions. Certain Tulips are also perennial. like Darwin Hybrids and the Emperors. Most Lilies also return each year. However. many spring-planted bulbs, like Dahlias, are tropical, so can't be left in the ground through freezing temperatures. These are referred to as "tender bulbs." In fact. they shouldn't be planted in spring until all danger of frost is past. In fall, once a freeze kills the tops, cut them off and store the roots dry in a paper (not plastic) bag in a closet or cellar that stays dry and never freezes. They'll be ready to plant again the next spring. Areas without a frost can leave tender bulbs in the ground through winter.

How Late Can I Plant Fall Bulbs?

October and November are always the recommended months, even later in warm areas of the country. But the simple answer is that you can plant them any time after first frost. and before the ground freezes. But frozen ground doesn't stop some bulb lovers. Even in places like Vermont, we have customers who have planted Tulips as late as Christmas. By then, it's hard work, since you have to break the frozen ground with a pick or sharp shovel. But the bulbs don't care, and bloom in spring just as if they'd been planted in October. All they need is a several-month freeze underground.

How, When & Where

Sun or Shade?

This is a great thing about bulbs. They love sun, but will do fine in partial shade. Also, fall-planted bulbs will be blooming when your trees are just leafing out, so shade is minimal. Just don't plant under evergreens. Dahlias are native to Mexico, so they're happiest in full sun, and bloom right through summer heat.

Soil & Watering

Your soil is probably just fine. Anything from the best garden loam to somewhat rocky or sandy soil will do for most fall-planted bulbs. Remember, Tulips are natives of the Middle East. so they're happy in dry climates. Lilies, and spring-planted bulbs like Dahlias and Glads enjoy richer garden soil. In spring, Mother Nature usually keeps your soil watered, but if there's no rain, all bulbs need regular watering when they're growing and blooming.

Do I Need Fertilizer?

No. Not needed for fall-planted bulbs. Bone meal is not recommended. Dogs love to dig up your bulbs looking for bones! Spring-planted bulbs like Dahlias enjoy standard feeding once they begin their all-summer bloom.

Plant in Masses, Not Spread Out

Even if your "mass planting" is just 10 or 12 bulbs, don't try to spread them out. Put them no more than 3 or 4 in. apart. and you'll have a beautiful blast of color, even from just a few bulbs. If you plant 50 or more, it's easier to dig one big trench for them all (instead of individual holes), then just pop them in, and cover with your soil. Spring-planted bulbs like Dahlias are different. Most form bushy plants so even one or two look good.

Can I Use Containers?

Yes! Most bulbs, including Daffodils, Tulips, dwarf Dahlias, and the shorter lilies, are great for big patio pots. Use the same planting depth with bulbs close together. But remember, pots need regular deep watering: rain doesn't do it.

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