This month we’ve covered how to plant cool-season veggies. If flowers are more your thing, then it’s time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Favorites such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and alliums are planted in fall but burst forth with color in spring.
There’s nothing difficult about planting bulbs and you can plant dozens of them in just a few minutes. Here are three easy steps for planting fall bulbs.
Today, the experts at North Haven Gardens answer the top 10 most common questions about planting bulbs.
Top 10 Burning Bulb Questions
1. When should I plant spring flowering bulbs?
Spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils are planted September to November. They need several weeks underground to grow roots before the ground freezes.
Check your hardiness zone to be sure when the best time is to plant. Usually, Zones 1 – 4 can plant late August through late September and Zones 4 – 7 can plant mid-September through early November.
2. How far apart and how deep should I plant?
The bulb package should tell you how deep and wide to plant bulbs. If you’ve lost your package, follow the 3×3 rule. Plant bulbs three times as deep as their height and keep 3x the diameter of the bulb between plantings.
3. Which end is up?
Bulbs with pointy ends make it easy: plant the pointed end up. Corms and tubers should have roots attached. Plant those down.
4. When should I feed my bulbs?
Bulbs do store their own food, but a little extra nutrition will help them last years. Add a sprinkle of Bulb-tone to the hole of each newly planted bulb. Come spring, sprinkle a little more Bulb-tone on top of the soil to give them an extra boost.
5. Should I water the flower bulbs after I plant them?
We call spring-flowering bulbs drought-tolerant. While they’re not exactly, you only need to water immediately after planting them.
6. Should I mulch bulbs?
We are huge advocates of mulch as long as it’s applied correctly. In cool climates you can mulch after the soil freezes. In warm climates, Zones 8 and above, mulch after planting and watering.
7. What should I do with the leaves after the flowers have faded?
Give leaves at least 8 weeks of growing, after the flowers fade. You can cut the stem, but the foliage provides energy for next year’s blooms. This is also a good time to feed bulbs, as they’re building up reserves.
One solution is to camouflage the fading foliage. Plant perennials or cool-season annuals. They will emerge right as unsightly foliage is fading.
8. Are there any bulbs deer don’t eat?
Daffodils are the most pest free spring bulbs you can grow. Alliums, in the onion family, are also unappealing to deer. However, if they’re really hungry, they’ll eat anything.
9. What about other pests?
There are measures you can take to keep unwanted visitors from eating your bulbs. Lay a small layer of hardware cloth or chicken wire over the top and around the sides of the new plantings. Just don’t forget to remove it come spring.
10. Will my flower bulbs come up again next year?
Flower bulbs are divided into three groups: annuals, perennials and naturalizing. Annual bulbs such as tulips produce their most beautiful display during the first year and if you’re lucky, may also emerge the following year. Perennial bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinth emerge and continue to bloom year after year. Naturalizing bulbs such as muscari, snowdrops and crocus will emerge every year and better yet, increase in number.
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- Dormant Bulb Watering – Do I Water Bulbs After Flowers Are Gone
- Should You Water Dormant Bulbs?
- About Dormant Bulb Watering
- General Summer Care of Spring Bulbs
- About author
- Daffodil Plant Care – Also Known As Narcissus or Jonquils
- Fertilizing Daffodil Plants: How And When To Fertilize Daffodils
- When to Fertilize Daffodils
- What to Feed Daffodil Bulbs
- How to Fertilize Daffodils
Dormant Bulb Watering – Do I Water Bulbs After Flowers Are Gone
Spring displays of bulbs are one of the earliest signs of the growing season and a pleasure to view. Once the petals have all fallen off the plants, should you water the dormant bulbs? Bulbs should stay in the ground for as long as there is foliage so the plant can gather solar energy for the next season’s growth. Summer care of spring bulbs means retaining foliage for as long as possible. How much maintenance do you need to do? Read on for the answer.
Should You Water Dormant Bulbs?
Many gardeners neglect spent bulb plants or even cut off their foliage. This is a no-no, as plants need leaves to gather energy through photosynthesis. This is actually a very important part of the bulb life cycle. If plants cannot gather energy and store it in the bulb, the following season’s blooms and foliage will be negatively affected.
While plants retain foliage and are doing their work, the entire plant will need to be maintained. Watering bulbs after flowering is important to support root systems and keep leaves in good condition. Think of it this way. You wouldn’t stop watering your rhododendron after it had flowered, would
you? It may not need as much water to support blooms, but it still needs to have water to the root system that will keep leaves fresh and hydrated and transport nutrients to all the parts of the plant.
To suspend watering would mean the plant would eventually wither and die. Dormant bulb watering is a necessary part of after bloom care and can help the plant save up energy for the next year. The xylem in plants is the vascular system that directs water into the cells and all parts of the plants. It is directly connected to the roots and water flows upward to hydrate and bring nutrients to fuel cell growth. Without water, the plant’s vascular system cannot do this important work.
About Dormant Bulb Watering
We have established that watering bulbs after flowering is a necessary chore, but how much and how frequently? This will depend on the site and the type of flowering bulb.
In dry, well-draining soil, the water will redirect quickly and plants will need to be watered more frequently, preferably when the top couple of inches of soil is dry to the touch.
In areas that do not drain as freely, the same touch test can be used, but the amount of water will be significantly reduced to prevent the bulb from drowning.
In container grown plants, watering bulbs after flowers are gone will be a more frequent chore. This is because the container tends to dry out more quickly due to wind and ambient conditions than in ground bulbs.
General Summer Care of Spring Bulbs
As long as soil is kept moderately moist and the foliage appears healthy, some other care should be observed. Remove spent flower stems, as they force the plant to direct energy to maintaining them when you really want all the energy to go into the bulb.
Do not tie up the foliage as some gardener’s urge. This reduces the leaf space that can gather solar energy to turn into stored plant sugars. Allow foliage to remain on the plant for 8 weeks. Remove the foliage when it has turned yellowish brown.
If the bulbs have been in the ground for several years, use a garden fork to lift them. Discard any discolored or diseased bulbs and replant clusters of 2 to 3 in separate areas. This will promote the formation of more bulbs and a healthier group of plants.
Caring for potted plants can be a bit of a trick if you have not done the right research in advance. By reading up and consulting with experts, you will be fully prepared to create the ideal environment and conditions for your new potted plant. Daffodils are part of the genus Narcissus and they make wonderful gifts for many occasions. While many choose to send flowers for Mother’s Day, for example, others prefer a gift that will last longer than cut stems and give the recipient even more joy over a period of time. If you are considering buying potted Daffodils as a gift or if you are the lucky recipient, then continue reading for some handy care tips.
Temperature and sunlight
In the beginning, if you receive a very young plant, you will want to ensure that the room temperature is dimly lit and somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius until the growing shoots are green. Your potted Daffodil should be kept away from direct sunlight and any type of heat source. So, keep it far from heaters, fire places and so on. The heat causes the plant to bloom more rapidly and, while this can feel very rewarding at first, it actually shortens the lifespan of the plant.
After the first week, or if your potted Daffodil already has green shoots, then you can place the plant in a brighter, slightly warmer room. They like temperatures that range between 15 and 21 degrees Celsius but you should still avoid keeping them in close proximity to any kind of heat source or direct sunlight.
The best soil for your potted Daffodil is sandy soil. If you order a potted Daffodil from your local florist or nursery, it should certainly come in just the right pot with the right type of soil too. It is, however handy to know what to look for when making your selection. The sandy soil allows for faster water drainage so do ensure that you place a saucer underneath the pot to catch excess water.
You should only water your potted Daffodil when you notice the soil is getting dry. Pour approximately one quarter cup of water over the soil at a time. Wait until the water has had a chance to filter through the soil before you add any more water. When you notice some water drain into the dish below, you should stop watering immediately and monitor the soil every day. Do not let the soil become too dry but also avoid over watering. With sandy soil, the excess water will just drain out anyway.
It’s very important to understand the nature of every house plant you bring home. All Narcissus plants contain a certain toxin called lycorine. It is found in the bulbs and the leaves of the plant and can cause various reactions if consumed.
Florists also report cases of dermatitis associated with handling Daffodils. The calcium oxalate in the sap of the plant is believed to be the culprit so, if you want to play it safe, you should always wear gardening gloves when working with these plants and do everything in your power to keep them out of reach of children and pets.
Daffodil Plant Care – Also Known As Narcissus or Jonquils
Daffodil Plant Care Tips
Daffodils (Narcissus) are popular flowers that bloom predominantly during the late winter or spring. The daffodil or jonquil, with its recognizable yellow or white blooms, is an excellent cut flower or potted flowering plant. Often used as a potted plant during Easter, this flower can be found in many gardens around the same time. In fact, daffodils (Narcissus) typically enjoy a cool, moist environment and perform well in a border, cool garden, or between shrubs.
Daffodil Care: Light Requirements
Daffodils thrive in low light, shady environments. Outdoors, daffodils perform well in the darker days of late winter when young and adapt with age to flourish in the full light of an early spring day. Potted daffodils require a position with full and bright light, perhaps the light of a terrace, sunroom, patio edge, or window boxes for smaller hybrids.
Daffodil Care: Water Requirements
Potted daffodils need a well-drained moist soil; be sure to have a drip tray to catch excessive draining. In the garden daffodils (Narcissus) enjoy a cool, evenly moist environment. Though typically found in cooler, dryer climates, daffodils can be spotted in the damp crevices of rocks, river silts, woodland areas, meadows, and other clammy locations. Ensure that the soil surrounding the daffodils remains moist during the rooting period and after blooming. Be sure to water late-flowering daffodils during dry spring weather; flowering will be decreased in dry conditions. However, bulbs should be kept dry when dormant.
Daffodil Plant Care: Fertilizer Requirements
Daffodil (Narcissus) bulbs contain all the nutrients necessary for growth so soil needs should be focused on moisture retention with good drainage as well as providing ample room for root growth. After the daffodils bloom, apply a balanced (20-20-20) fertilizer at least once. Apply a high potash fertilizer to the soil if the bulbs do not burgeon well as this should aid in flowering.
Daffodil Care: Pests and Diseases
Typical pests affecting the daffodil may include large the narcissus bulb fly, bulb scale mites, the narcissus nematode, and slugs. Pathogen (fungal, bacterial, viral) may include narcissus basal rot and narcissus yellow stripe virus.
Daffodil Care: Propagation and Potting
In the Garden, plant daffodil bulbs at a depth of one-and-one-half to five times their own depth in autumn. Where winters are severe, make sure at least three inches of soil cover the bulbs. Allow the roots plenty of room to develop freely. If forcing the daffodils indoor, plant the bulbs with necks showing in an azalea pot or bulb pan using soil less or organic based potting mix.
Daffodil Care: Pruning & Dead-heading
Daffodil plants should be dead-headed as the flowers fade to create a neater appearance of the garden. Allow the leaves to remain for at least six weeks. Lift and divide clumps when they become congested or the flowering becomes sparse.
Need a Potted Daffodil?
Fertilizing Daffodil Plants: How And When To Fertilize Daffodils
We all wait for it. — those first brilliant green shoots peeking out of still chilly, somewhat soggy soil to announce the beginning of spring. By the time the first sunny golden flowers appear, our hearts and minds are lifted by the spectacular display of daffodils in bloom. Perennial bulbs, like daffodils, will naturalize and produce flowers for many years.
Daffodil fertilizer can enhance the perfect trumpet-shaped forms and colors of these cheery flowers. Find out when to fertilize daffodils and what to feed daffodil bulbs for year after year of uplifting spring color.
When to Fertilize Daffodils
Timing is everything and feeding bulbs is no exception. The bulbs mostly fend for themselves by storing energy gathered the previous season in the bulb. The foliage should remain after the blooms are gone so they can collect carbohydrates synthesized from solar rays in the photosynthetic process.
Potted bulbs and those in areas with heavy nutrient competition, such
as plants growing under trees, will benefit from supplemental feeding. Fertilizing daffodil plants that are established in early spring spurs new spring growth. Newly planted bulbs are fertilized at planting in fall.
What to Feed Daffodil Bulbs
Feeding bulbs at planting gives them a good start for their spring debut. Use a bulb food or bone meal and work it into the soil a couple of inches at the bottom of the hole you dug for installation. Mix it in well and then plant the bulb.
Mature daffodils respond well to early spring fertilizer. Use a gentle liquid fish emulsion fertilizer mixed in water for fertilizing daffodil plants and pour it around the bulb zone. You can also scratch a small amount of 5-10-5 granular food into the soil if spring rains will help wash it down into the root area.
How to Fertilize Daffodils
Now that we know the “when” and “what” we can turn our attention to the “how.” How to fertilize daffodils depends on whether they are potted, newly planted or in the ground.
Granular formulas should only be used if you intend to water or if there is plenty of rain. They don’t work into the soil without water as a conduit, and too little water may leach a strong mixture of food that can burn the bulbs.
Newly planted bulbs should not be laid into a bed of fertilizer for the same reason. Mix it into the soil below the bulb so that once roots grow they can begin to utilize the food. If you are planning a spring bulb display, prepare the bed by working in daffodil fertilizer at a rate of 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet of soil.