While you might not believe it, it is time to start thinking about your spring garden. This is the time of the year when we start planting bulbs for those beautiful flowers that sprout in spring. We are fortunate that so many colorful and interesting bulbs can grow in our gardening zone.
A few of the more common sun loving bulbs for our growing zone include most lily varieties, amaryllis, callas and gladiolus. Alstroemeria, called Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas is a shade loving plant with long lasting flowers often seen in cut flower arrangements. Varieties of caladium can be grown in sun or shade and are prized for their foliage and pair well with flowering plants.
For gardeners who like to grow fun plants or plants that few people have in their gardens, bulbs can accommodate those wishes as well. For something a little different look for Voodoo, Aztec, Pineapple and Oxblood lilies. They are sure to make your garden standout from your neighbor’s
Bulbs look best when they are planted in clumps instead of neat, regimented rows. It gives a more natural look. One suggestion is to drop a hand full of bulbs and plant them where they lay. Another question often asked is how to plant them. The usual rule is pointy side up, if your bulb doesn’t seem to have a pointy side look for where the roots might be forming. If all else fails, plant them sideways, the plant will figure out which way to grow.
How deep should bulbs be planted seems to be the eternal question. A good guideline is three times the length of the bulb. If the bulb is 2 inches long, plant it 6 inches deep. These are simple guidelines – if you have planting instructions follow those.
A nice way to keep flowers in the garden is to layer bulbs that bloom at different times. This is sometimes called the lasagna method. This is a technique that works well with container gardening. To layer bulbs, do the following:
- Provide a layer of potting soil for a planting depth of about 8 inches (don’t use garden soil)
- Plant late-spring-blooming bulbs
- Apply another layer of potting soil for a planting depth of about 6 inches
- Plant mid-spring-blooming bulbs
- Apply a layer of potting soil for a planting depth of about 4 inches
- Add early blooming bulbs
- Add a layer of potting soil for a planting depth of about 2 inches
- Add more early-blooming bulbs
- Top with more potting soil and a thin layer of mulch
- Overplant with seasonal annuals while waiting for the bulbs to bloom
You can adjust the layers when using smaller pots. This method can also be used in your garden supplying flowers over a long period of time.
Be sure to check the planting instructions for your bulb variety, while there are many bulbs that can be planted immediately, others require a certain number of chill hours for flowers to properly form.
Examples of bulbs that require chill hours in zone 9 include, all tulips, hyacinths, muscari, crocus and alliums
Bulbs that will bloom in zone 9 without pre-chilling include:
Dutch iris, Anemone DeCaen, Anemone St. Brigid, Freesia, Ranunculus, Scilla peruviana and Daffodil varieties suited to warm climates, including Carlton, Erlicheer, Thalia, and Avalanche.
We too often forget about planting bulbs in the fall to get beautiful spring flowers. Now is the time to start the first plantings for those spring flowers we all enjoy so much.
Written by Cliff Blackerby, September, 2021.