Where to Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs

I read your column about planting flowers. Could you give me some more suggestions about where to plant spring flowering bulbs.

There are so many places to plant bulbs that you can never have too many. They do not have to be limited to their own space. I like to plant bulbs anywhere I plant annual flowers. In the spring I plant my annuals between bulbs, even before the bulb leaves start to turn brown. You can also plant bulbs now between currently growing annuals, or it may be easier to wait until frost kills the plants, remove the annuals, and then plant bulbs.

I also plant bulbs among perennial flowers. They are through flowering before most perennials have grown to full size. There are a few early blooming perennials such as rock cress, gold alyssum, and candytuft which bloom as early as bulbs. Even these early bloomers are compatible with bulbs if you choose the right sizes and colors.

I am very fond of ground covers because they are low maintenance once established. Bulbs add color when they come up through ground covers. For example, yellow tulips or daffodils are a very attractive contrast to bronze leaf ajuga. You can make holes for bulb planting between ground cover plants with a trowel or bulb planter. Or if your ground cover is very thick, a 3 inch hole for a bulb will be quickly filled in.

New beds for bulbs can also be created in front of shrubs, walls or fences. If spaces are not wide enough, expand them by spraying a section of grass with herbicides such as Roundup. You can remove the dead grass within 3 weeks, even if it has not turned completely brown yet. If grass has grown into areas where bulbs are already planted, now is a good time to spray so that it will be weed-free next spring.

Bulbs multiply over the years. If yours have become too thick, you may want to dig them up and respace them. If you have trouble locating them, make a note on your calendar to dig and replant next June when you still have leaf remnants to find their exact location.

The best pattern for most bulb plantings is clusters or clumps rather than single file rows. I prefer to plant individual colors and varieties rather than mixtures. If you plant more than one kind of bulb in a bed, check the heights, so you can plant the shorter ones in front.

Although my mainstays are tulips and daffodils, I plant a few of the less common bulbs to extend the blooming season. Crocus is the most reliable early bloomer, but snowdrops, and windflower (Anemone blanda) also do well. Hyacinths and grape hyacinths are also easy to grow. Frittilarias can be spectacular. Fall is also an excellent time to move or plant new summer-blooming Asiatic Lilies.

I do a lot of bulb planting for my clients.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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