Bulbs that flower in spring must be planted in Fall. There is no getting around this requirement.
No matter how large or small your garden, almost everyone can find room for a few spring bulbs. Trust me…you’ll be delighted that you did after a cold, grey winter. There are many different bulbs to choose from, but if this is your first foray into bulbs keep it simple. Daffodils deliver!
You will get more flowers for a longer time with less care than any other bulbs you can plant. They’ll thrive just about anywhere, and they come back year after year in ever greater numbers. Over time, even a small planting of 20 bulbs will gradually become a swath of color with a hundred or more blooms. Daffodils do well in flowerbeds but will do well planted just about anywhere in your landscape. In fact, you may find that you would rather put bulbs anywhere BUT in your flowerbeds. Next year’s flower forms during the three or four weeks after flowering. During this time the plant needs its leaves to generate the nutrients to form a new flower. It’s important to leave the foliage alone until it yellows and begins to wither. At that point, you can cut the foliage or gently tug on it to pull it away from the bulb. Most people don’t want this yellowy foliage hanging around taking up valuable planting space in beds so go on ahead and plant them groups of daffodils under a tree, in a field, or against a stone wall for a natural look. Although mostly found in shades of yellow, there are beautiful shades of cream, peach and orange available as well.
Tulips are spring color powerhouses that come in every imaginable color and size. You need to plant a lot of them to make a beautiful display. Think dozens, not handfuls. Tulips almost always put on the best show during the first year, but many varieties tend to taper off in following years. If you don’t want to repeat your planting every year look for perennial tulip species that are fairly reliable year after year. Otherwise, yank them out after they bloom and start planning your color pallet for next year. Tulip bulbs prefer cool, moist springs and hot, dry summers, which is not what they usually get in the Lakes Region of NH. There are perennial tulips species that return reliably year after year, but they come with a higher price tag. Stick with those if you don’t want to recreate your display every year.
A mass bulb planting may sound like a lot of work, but it’s fairly simple. Find an area you want for your bulbs and dig a trench approximately 6”–8” deep. Planting depth is important. A general rule is to measure the height of the bulb itself and then plant it three to four times deeper than that. For a tulip bulb 2 inches high, you need to dig a hole that’s at least six to eight inches deep. Pour the bulbs in, roughly 15-25 per square foot of trench, arrange them randomly with the point facing up. Cover the bulbs with the excavated soil, press it firmly and rake over the area.
Today you can buy bulbs almost everywhere–including the grocery store and big-box chain stores. The price may be right, but most of these bulbs are undersized. And when it comes to bulbs, the bigger the bulb you plant, the bigger the bloom next spring. A bigger bulb also increases the likelihood that your bulbs will flower for more than one year. For best results, bulbs should be kept in cold storage with controlled humidity until being shipped to you. We recommend purchasing bulbs from a direct importer/catalog or local garden center.
You should get your bulbs into the ground in Lakes Region gardens in early to mid-fall (don’t wait for a finger-freezing day in late October). Tulip bulbs need at least 14 weeks of temperatures below 48 degrees. Bulbs should be planted when the soil has cooled to about 55 degrees and need the cool soil to make roots before the onset of winter. You have about 8 weeks to plant after the first frost. As long as the ground is not frozen, you can still plant bulbs.