After a tough winter like this one, there’s nothing that lifts the spirits and brings a smile to your face like bright spring blooms poking out of your newly thawed landscape.
Spring bulbs are some of the first flowers to appear in the spring, making them great additions to your landscape and flower beds to bring you a bit of colour and cheer as soon as possible in the year. Straying from seeds might seem a little intimidating for some people, but planting actually doesn’t get much simpler than “plant-it-then-forget-it” bulbs.
Spring bulbs bring us some of our favorite seasonal looks that simply can’t be replicated with any other flowers, and their head start in the soil at the beginning of the season gives them an early jump on spring and other blooms. When the weather just begins to warm up, we’re ready to get out in our gardens and enjoy our landscapes again, and bulbs are the perfect way to take advantage of that spring excitement.
When to Plant Bulbs
Getting to know the basics about your bulbs is the difference between a successful garden and a disappointing beginning to the season. When it comes to bulb types, it’s all about timing.
Spring blooming bulbs
Classics like tulips and daffodils actually need some planning ahead for best results, as they need to be planted in the fall. These blooms should be in the ground approximately six weeks before the first frost (planting in late August) so that they can get settled in nicely before the winter chill. They actually need the deep freeze in order to get their beauty sleep and emerge in the spring just as soon as the weather is warm again. Already planted and ready to go, these blooms are great in the spring as they are ready to spring into action before you can get out into the garden to work on planting anything else.
If you didn’t get to planting last fall, though, all hope for spring bulb colour isn’t gone – you can get pre-chilled blooms that were kept the right temperature for hibernation all winter and are ready to be planted in your garden. Don’t worry about the last frost; if you can move the soil you can plant these bulbs outside, and they’ll bloom when weather permits. If the ground is still frozen solid, you can even plant them in a container until the soil is warm enough to start planting.
If you’ve totally missed out on spring bulbs, you don’t have to be sad about missing all of the colour and convenience of these blooms that you plant and forget until later – there’s tons of time to plant summer blooming bulbs in your garden. Beautiful flowers like dahlias, allium, and begonias are perfect for brightening your yard later in the season. Wait for warm soil before you plant these heat lovers, as they aren’t fans of frost and are a bit more delicate.
The Best Bulbs to Choose for a Flower Garden
Not every bulb was created equal, and there are so many options that it can be overwhelming to choose. You’ll be focusing on when to plant and how to plant, but also looking for flowers that compliment each other and give you lasting colour all season. Here are some of our favourite bulbs to see in our own yards in the spring:
- Tulips: These bulbs are beauty in a cup and are beloved classics for a reason. A symbol of spring, they triumphantly announce the arrival of warmer weather with vibrant colours and their iconic shape. Tulips can be picky and have a reputation for being finicky, but if you provide soil with lots of drainage and only water sparingly, you’re likely to have success. Many varieties only last a few years, so you’ll have the chance to refresh your look often! Plant new tulips every fall to make sure that you always have something to enjoy in the spring.
- Hyacinths: For a little bit of a cooler tone in your garden in the spring when the days are still chilly, hyacinths are a perfect addition. These flowers grow in stunning clusters that look and smell fabulous. You’ll love their intoxicating fragrance, which will bring a smile to your face every day. Plant them near high-traffic areas of your garden, like a walkway or a patio, so you can enjoy their scent whenever you step outside. Plant them in full sun to partial sun, and give them well-draining soil for a successful spring bloom.
- Daffodils: With pointed petals and a trumpet shape, these are the stars of spring blooming in many gardens. Like sunshine encapsulated right in your garden, they’re sure to put you in a spring mood. Give them lots of sunlight (only partial shade or full sun) to help them reach their maximum brightness. These tough plants are easy to care for and can last for decades without any maintenance so you can truly plant them and forget about them!
Eising’s Tips for Planting Spring Bulbs
If you’ve only ever planted from seeds or starters, something new can be a little intimidating. There’s no need to worry, though – there are lots of ways to make planting spring bulbs easy!
Pick high-quality bulbs. Check your bulbs before you buy (and plant!) to make sure they’re in good condition to grow. Pick healthy bulbs that are firm and plump, with no visible discolouration or mould spots. Larger bulbs will give you bigger and/or more blooms than smaller ones.
Location, location, location: Choose a good spot for your bulbs to give them the leg up on growing healthy and vibrant. Most flowers like full or partial sun conditions with good drainage, but read their label to be sure you give your bulbs what they need to reach their full potential.
Start with a good foundation. Good soil makes a big difference. Bulbs don’t like wet or damp conditions and will want something that drains well. They’ll also love the boost of fertilization to give them that extra push in the spring. Without a little fuel, the flowers will suffer and not be as bold of a display when it comes time to bloom.
Plant them right. Starting with healthy bulbs and good conditions is a great start, but planting bulbs takes some new skills that gardeners used to seeds and transplants might not have. Plant these bulbs deep enough – typically a hole 3 times as tall as the bulb is – and plant with the pointed side pointing downward.
Caring For Your Spring Bulbs
Many bulbs are simply perennial plants with a slight twist, so they will return with beautiful blooms year after year! While this saves you from getting new plants to replace the ones you love, it does mean that the work isn’t done when the blooms fade. Maintaining your blooms will bring flowers for next year:
- After your spring bulbs are done flowering for the season, cut their stalks down to the ground, but leave the foliage up for a few months. The leaves will still be busy collecting energy and nutrients to fuel the blooms for next year, and you don’t want to create a disappointing spring next year by trimming them back prematurely. As a rule of thumb, wait about 2 months before you trim the leaves back.
- Many perennials need to be divided every three to five years to manage their successful growth. If your plant is producing fewer blooms than usual it’s time to divide. Wait until your plant is dormant and the foliage has dried and died before you divide.
Cold winter days are a little less awful when you know that spring colour is waiting for you on the other side of the season. All your bulbs need is a little bit of planning ahead, and in return, they will fill your garden with cheer all season.