Plant Bulbs Now

Narcissus 'February Gold'

Narcissus ‘February Gold’

WE ARE IN the midst of that most noteworthy horticultural ritual of the fall season: bulb planting.
Plant bulbs as soon as possible. You may see flowers as soon as February.  Go to the nursery now before all the best bulbs are picked out. You always want to select the fattest, cleanest specimens. Bulbs that are cracked, discolored or soft may have disease problems. Small bulbs produce smaller leaves and fewer blooms than large bulbs.
Another reason to plant early is to get maximum root production before leaves and flowers begin to grow. The more roots you have, the more robust your leaves and flowers are going to be. Also, if you live in the Antelope Valley, development of a strong root system now will protect your bulbs from freezing weather this winter.
Because you want to encourage root-system development, you should water your bulbs after planting and continue watering just enough so that the soil does not dry out. Once leaves have started to grow, bulb rot is less likely and watering can increase.
Plant at a depth that is two to three times the height of the bulb, pointed side up. Plant small bulbs (anemone, crocus, freesia) three inches apart and large bulbs (tulip, daffodil, hyacinth) five inches apart.
It is not essential that fertilizer be placed where you plant your bulbs since healthy bulbs contain all the minerals they need to grow their first year in the garden. If you wish, you can work bone meal into the soil a few inches beneath the bottom of your planting holes.
Since bulbs look their best planted in mass — in groups of 30 to 50 or more — bulb enthusiasts typically dig out a large area in the garden to the appropriate planting depth, seat the bulbs next to each other, and then backfill the entire area. This way, you avoid the more laborious task of having to dig individual holes for each bulb.
Bulbs generally prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Dappled sun under tall trees is also an excellent microclimate for bulb growth. The following bulbs are considered moderately shade tolerant: hyacinth, arum, alium ursinum, fritillaria, erythronium, puschkinia, chinodoxa.
Bulbs grow well in containers and should definitely be planted in them, rather than in the ground, if they are still sitting on your shelf around Thanksgiving. Put your bulbs in containers, cover them with moist potting soil and place them in the refrigerator. Cover the containers with clear plastic. Within two to three months, when you see leaves pushing through the soil, take the containers out of the refrigerator and put them on your patio, balcony or indoors near a sunny window. The leaves will continue to grow and flowers will eventually appear.
To ensure that bulbs reflower after their first year in your garden or pots, leaves should be left to wither completely before being removed. I know that browning leaves may be unsightly, but those leaves, as long as they show any green, are producing precious carbohydrates essential to the development of next year’s crop of flowers.
TIP OF THE WEEK: If you have a problem with deer, you should try the following bulbs: hyacinth, anemone, fritillaria and daffodil. I cannot guarantee that deer will not eat these bulbs, but they have a better chance of escaping a deer’s foraging than other bulb varieties.

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