As the name implies, hardy
bulbs are those that can withstand
the cold winter temperatures buried in the ground. Unlike
gladiolus and other "tender bulbs" these do not need to be dug up and stored
inside during the winter months.
a) Look for large
bulbs. The larger the bulb, the more
food is available to nurture developing
blossoms. Larger bulbs usually cost more,
but they also produce more and larger
flowers. Smaller bulbs can be quite
satisfactory in your garden, but below a
certain size, they may not bloom the year
that they are planted, though they should in
Bulbs are often graded
and sold by their circumference. Many hybrid
daffodils, however, are graded by weight
because a single bulb may actually consist
of two or more bulbs united at the base,
resulting in a form that cannot be measured
b) Avoid root plate
damage. Look at the bottom side of each
bulb. If it is nicked or scarred, do not
purchase it because root growth may be
inhibited. Lily bulbs should have a few
large, firm roots still attached to the
c) Avoid moldy and
shrivelled bulbs. Mold or decay
indicates poor quality or disease.
Shrivelling indicates water loss, which is
often due to improper storage. Bulbs should
normally be firm and plump.
d) Avoid soft,
sour-smelling or lightweight bulbs.
Occasionally, a bulb (tulip, especially) may
look normal but has lost most of its weight
to a fungal disease. Such bulbs will not
bloom and should be avoided.
e) Buy from a
reputable source. Word-of-mouth can lead
you to a reliable garden center. Mail order
is also a popular route. Gardening friends
and neighbors can help with recommendations.
f) Buy in quantity.
Often, the more bulbs you buy, the lower the
price per bulb. Try ordering with a friend
or several neighbors to get the quantity
discount. Pre-bagged bulbs are often the best
bargain as long as the bulbs inside are
still in good condition.
Spring Flowering Bulbs
- For the best display, large groupings of
individual species of bulbs should be used. A
dozen or more large flowering tulips or two
dozen small bulbs such as snowdrops or crocus
planted in an area will give an excellent show.
It is better to group the bulbs to form a "flow"
of color than to scatter individual plants
around a large area. Be sure to plant varieties
of differing heights such that the taller ones
are to the back of the bed and the shorter
stemmed plants are in front.
perennial beds, plant daffodils and other spring
flowering bulbs toward the middle of the bed or
the back of the border. They are the only plants
in bloom at that time of the spring so, even
though they may be relatively short, you do not
have to plant them in the front row. Remember
that the foliage of these bulbs must be left to
grow until it turns brown and dies which can
take until the middle of the summer. By planting
the bulbs back into the bed further, other
plants can emerge later in the spring and
camouflage the browning foliage.
depths vary depending on the size of the bulb.
Generally, the bottom of the hole should be
about two and one half times the diameter of the
bulb. A one inch crocus
corm should be placed in
a 2 ½ inch hole while a 3 inch tulip bulb needs
a hole about 6 to 7 inches deep. In heavy
soils, the bulbs should be planted a bit more
shallow while in sandy soils they can be a
little deeper. Bulbs planted too shallow may not
survive the winter while those set too deep will
be short stemmed and weak growing.
plantings, dig the area down to the proper depth
and work some bone meal into the bottom of the
excavation. For a more informal look, spread the
bulbs randomly around the planting area and then
adjust for proper spacing between plants. If you
prefer straight rows, align the bulbs with
proper spacing so that the plants can expand
properly and yet fill the area with color.
bulbs, the roots come from a flat "basal plate"
at the bottom of the bulb. When you place the
bulbs, this plate should be gently pushed into
the soil to assure good contact. Avoid using too
much pressure or you may damage the bulb and
prevent root growth.
bulbs with the soil that came from the hole and
replace any mulch which was in the bed. For
bulbs which are hardy for our area, you do not
need to add any extra mulch.
Occasionally, squirrels will dig up bulbs or
dogs will scratch away the soil in search of the
bone meal. One method for preventing this is to
place a layer of chicken wire a few inches above
the bulbs and below the surface of the soil.
This will allow the stems to emerge but will
discourage the animals from digging down to the
Flowering Bulbs - The summer flowering
bulbs would include
hardy lilies, alliums and
other plants that flower in the summer. Hardy
lilies and alliums need a winter chilling so
they need to be planted in the fall along with
the tulips and daffodils. Occasionally, you will
see lily bulbs on sale in the spring but be sure
that these have been artificially chilled if you
want them to bloom in the current year.
The key to remember with care of
hardy bulb plants is that you are always looking
forward to the next year's crop of blooms. The size
and vigor of the plants you have during the current
spring was all determined on how well the bulbs were
filled the previous summer.
How do the plants build the bulbs to the desired
size each year? Through
photosynthesis, of course.
For photosynthesis to take place, you MUST have
green leaves. So it is imperative that you keep the
leaves on the bulb plants until they naturally turn
brown on their own.
Daffodils tend to be a tad more flexible and will
endure some early loss of foliage and survive.
However, tulips are less flexible and, if the
foliage is removed too early in the season, may not
be large enough to come back the next season. Or,
they may only be able to produce some leaves but no
The other thing that these plants need to rebuild
their bulbs is nutrients. That is where
come into play. At one time, it was thought that the
time to fertilize bulbs was when they are in bloom.
That is wrong.
They need the fertilizer in the ground down where
the roots are as long as the foliage is still green.
So, it is now recommended that you spread some
fertilizer around bulb plants as soon as the foliage
begins to emerge from the ground in the spring.
Remember that once the foliage is gone, the plant
cannot use the fertilizer and no more growth will
occur in the size of the bulb.
Perhaps the key problem with many
bulbs is rot. This occurs when the bulbs are placed
in poorly drained soils. In this environment, the
bulbs remain wet for long periods and this
encourages fungal rot organisms.
For bulbs that are truly hardy
for your climate zone, there is no special winter
care needed. That is the essence of the term "hardy"