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Bulb Planting 101

The Martha Stewart Show, September 2006

Fall is here, and that means it's time to start thinking about spring flowers. This is the perfect time to start planting those spring-blooming bulbs so your garden will be full of beautiful, healthy flowers next year. The planting times for your bulbs will vary based on what USDA zone you live in. Your local garden center will begin selling the bulbs during the proper planting time for your area, from late September in regions with cold winters to mid-December in those with more mild ones.

In areas with warmer winters, bulbs often are sold prechilled, which simulates the winter freeze that makes bulbs spring into action.

Blooming season for spring bulbs is long, from February through June. To maximize the display in your garden, select bulbs that will span this period. Choose bulbs that will bloom in February and March (such as crocus), ones that will flower in April (such as daffodil), and so on.

Bulbs need to be planted now so they can put out roots in the fall soil and then go through a dormant period in the winter. Some bulbs, such as daffodils, will need time to "naturalize," or spread and propagate.

Many bulbs look best massed together in an informal, natural way; you can even simply scatter the bulbs on the ground in the area you want them and then plant them where they fall. Alternatively, you can space them closely in a container. It's best to plant an entire area at once, to avoid digging into an already planted bulb.

Bulb Planting How-To
1. Always use bulbs that are hard to the touch, with no soft spots. They should not have mold or discoloration, and should have their protective skin intact.

2. Plant the bulb at a depth three times deeper than the bulb's height. Be sure to plant with the root end down, so it grows properly.

3. To prevent squirrels from eating your bulbs (they tend to favor tulips), use a squirrel cage made out of hardware cloth to protect the bulbs, or purchase one from Gardener's Supply. Plant your bulbs in the cage and put it in a hole.

4. Use bulb food or bone meal to promote healthy growth.

5. Plant various types together in groups (to ensure a timeline of blooms for spring).

Special Thanks
Visit the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center to find out when you should plant bulbs in your region. Special thanks to Gardener's Supply.