Close your eyes and imagine next spring, the thrill you get with the first crocus opening its blooms in the sunlight. The sight of that early speck of color turning into an eye-popping wave of beauty is a sure cure for winter blues.
It’s also one of the only things that will convince a gardener, weary from the long summer of growing, to spend their weekend planting. But get out the trowels, you’re your kneeling cushions and get ready: finally the time has arrived to pop those bulbs in the ground.
If you haven’t picked out your bulbs, don’t worry, most of the garden centers still have a good supply. For best success, keep these tips in mind:
• With bulbs, size matters. Choose large, well-formed bulbs that are blemish free.
• Plant bulbs when soil temperatures are cool – 55 to 58 degrees.
• Dig holes four times the height of the bulb,and place bulbs tips up.
• There’s no need to fertilize at planting, instead, fertilize in spring when shoots first show.
• Add four inches of mulch to buffer soil temperatures.
While most people love the traditional tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, look for the quirky to add a designer flair to your spring bouquets:
Star of Persia (Allium christophii) is a lasting favorite in the garden, and a must-have because of its size: 8 to 12 inch metallic-purple orbs. Giants in the landscape thrill visitors and this allium dries down to look like an exploding sphere – always a hit at our house. Blooming later in the season, these show stoppers grow 18 inches tall and are outstanding dried flowers. Plant in full sun near borders, or nestled up against roses where the orbs can add unusual accent. Zones 4–8.
Double blooming daffodils (Narcissus spp.) will leave you wishing you planted more, so grab an extra dozen before you head to the checkout line. Great for naturalizing, the ruffled petals often come in a two-tone frill that dazzles as a cut flower.
Pair these with yellow Jonquils for a delightful scent or compliment the accent color of the double blossom with a daffodil of the same hue. Plant in full sun where they have room to spread. Zones 3–8.
Species tulips, those that aren’t improved by hybridizing, are the perfect answer to bulb lovers in yards with plenty of sun and good drainage. Quickly making themselves at home, you’ll have naturalized tulips filling your garden in a saturated carpet of color.
When preparing to plant, choose a spot that isn’t heavy clay, plant them on a slope, or amend the area with a bit of compost to assure good drainage. Plant the bulbs where they won’t be crowded by other perennials – they don’t handle competition well. Zones 4 – 7.
Crown Imperial— earning the name for good reason, Fritillaria imperialis’ tall, tufted stalks cause strolling neighbors to stop and stare. Wreathed in hanging, bell-shaped blooms, the shoots unfold like an alien plant seen on a science fiction show. Unusual in many gardens, this bulb is a sure winner of hearts when planted in clumps of three to five.
But these bulbs are temperamental. If bruised in shipping they rot instead of thrive, so check the quality closely when you purchase or receive yours from mail order. Plant in full sun with good drainage. Zones 4–7.
Carol O’Meara is with Colorado State University Extension in Boulder County. Contact her at 303-678-6238 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Colorado State University Extension provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development.