Four Tips for Planting Your Favorite Bulbs, from Irises to Tulips

Plus, Martha shares the importance of planning ahead.

Flower bulbs bloom throughout the spring, summer, and even into the fall months, providing bright colorful intrigue to gardens. "The word 'bulb' tends to be an all-inclusive term referring to multiple types of underground structures including true bulbs (think tulips and daffodils), corms (crocus), tubers (caladiums), tuberous roots (dahlias), and rhizomes (asparagus)," says Amy Enfield, a horticulturalist for Miracle-Gro. And while each yields gorgeous (and in some cases, tasty) results, planting true bulbs—like irises, tulips, and daffodils, has its own unique process. Here are some bulb planting tips from our founder and Einfeld that will have your garden looking beautiful come spring.

Plan before planting.

Einfeld recommends choosing a spot in your garden where the bulbs will get at least six hours of sun and with well-draining soil. Then, it's time to plan where you'll plant them. "Bulb planting is very easy to do if you get yourself organized," Martha previously explained. Einfeld agrees, suggesting that home gardeners create a layout for their "bulbs in your desired planting arrangement (most bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, should be spaced four to six inches apart) and dig the holes to the proper depth," she says. "For spring-flowering bulbs, I have always used the motto 'the more hybridized the bulb, the more formal the planting,'" she says. Regardless of whether planting is formal or random, bulbs look best planted en masse versus straight lines. Something Martha knows a thing or two about thanks to her daffodil garden. Each year she plants about 12,000 to 15,000 bulbs with great success. "The deer don't like daffodil or narcissus so [they don't] eat them—so they will multiply and multiply year after year," Martha previously said.

planting lily bulbs in garden
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Prep the soil.

Enfield says to loosen the soil in the planting area and mix in compost or prepare in-ground soil—Einfeld recommends Miracle-Gro Performance Organics In-Ground Soil ($9.97, "This will improve drainage," she says. "This is also a good time to add bulb fertilizer or bone meal to the soil following package directions." Bone meal helps rejuvenate the bulbs so that most of them will come up again and again, year after year.

Plant two-to-three times as deep as the bulb is tall, with the pointy-end facing up.

For true bulbs and corms, says Enfield, a good general rule of thumb is to plant them two-to-three times as deep as they are tall. "If bulbs are planted too deep, they will bloom late or not at all," she says. "If they aren't planted deep enough, they may sprout too soon and can be damaged by cold temperatures." Einfeld says to place the bulbs in the planting holes with the pointy-end up and the basal roots where the roots will form down. "If you're not sure of what's up and what's down, plant the bulb on its side," she adds.

Water thoroughly after planting.

As with most types of plants, it's important to water the area thoroughly, "to help everything settle in," Enfield says. "Keep the soil moist, but not overly saturated until the ground freezes [for fall-planted bulbs]."

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