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Your Guide to Planting Bulbs in Colder States

You can have success with flowering bulbs even in cold climates.

red tulips
Photography by: Michel Porro / Getty Images

Whether you're planning to plant daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, or tulips, bulbs can fill your garden with seasonal color, texture, and a gorgeous supply of cut flowers. Though bulb planting is generally considered an easy gardening task, it does require a few key steps to ensure a floriferous display—especially when you're planting in colder climates.

 

Related: From My Home to Yours: Planting Bulbs

 

Start with High Quality Bulbs

Smart bulb planting starts at your garden center or online grower, where it's important to always check that you're purchasing high-quality, healthy bulbs. One important tip is to avoid bulbs that feel mushy or have moldy spots. Also, do your homework and make sure that your chosen bulbs are hardy and can withstand potential long, brutal winter temperatures

 

Planting Spring-Blooming Bulbs


If you want to plant spring-blooming bulbs, get them in the ground in the fall, but know that some tender fall-planted bulbs are more at risk as they have to withstand ice, rain, and extreme temperatures. On the other hand, many spring bloomers actually need a certain amount of cold days before they are ready to break their dormancy period. This process keeps the plant embryo from coming out during damaging cold weather. Some top bulbs that are considered cold include tulips, crocuses, allium, bearded and Siberian irises, daffodils, fritillaria, snowdrops, and hyacinths
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Related: Understanding Your Plant Hardiness Zone

 

Planting Summer-Blooming Bulbs


If you live in a cold climate and worry about your bulbs surviving winter, then spring-planted bulbs might be a better choice, as they are planted after the danger of frost has passed. For summer blooms, plant your bulbs in the spring after the date of the last frost (generally April-June). Another important thing to know is that your hardy summer blooming bulbs should be lifted and stored in a cool, dry location during the winter to avoid the possibility of being damaged by long freezes and boggy soil. When the soil is workable again in the spring you can replant your bulbs. Top spring-planted bulbs include saffron crocuses, crocosmia, ranunculus, freesias, cyclamen, and foxtail lily.

 

Prep Your Soil


Soil is another factor when planting bulbs in cold zones. If your soil is less than desirable and perhaps contains a lot of non-draining clay, then prep your planting area by working in organic compost to ensure good draining and soil fertility. Also, be sure to check the proper depth at which your bulbs should be planted. Too deep and they'll be slow emerging and too shallow and their heads may prematurely poke out above the soil and get damaged by unpleasant weather. Different bulb types need to be plated at different depths so follow the planting instructions on the packaging, but the general rule is to plant the bulb two to three times as deep as it is tall. That means that a two inch bulb is planted six inches deep. Pro tip: Remember that planting depth is measured from the soil surface to the bulb's shoulder.