There is still time to get spring bulbs planted. Spring bulbs do best when planted in the fall so they can go through a vernalization (chilling process) to break dormancy and produce flowers. That vernalization can be done in the ground, in a refrigerator, or in a pot in the garage. It’s best to have them in the soil (pot or ground) to get the benefit of fall root establishment.
Select high quality bulbs. Look for large bulbs that have a membrane covering and are free of damage or disease. Avoid bulbs with mold, gouges and cracks.
Bulbs do best if they are planted in full sun locations with wind protection. Of course, pots can be moved from a protected location to a sunny location when the time is right.
They only need one fall watering after planting—whether in the ground or in pots.
Soil and fertility
Avoid waterlogged soils and use fertilizer that is developed for bulbs.
The rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to cover them approximately two to three times the diameter of the bulb. Spring bulbs (garlic, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, crocus, etc.) will be planted anywhere from two to eight inches deep, depending on the size of the bulbs. Most of them have a pointy end — that is the end that goes up. Otherwise, determine which end has the root plate and plant that end down.
Plant in groupings. Rows are not as impressive as grouped bulbs. An easy way to plant large groups of bulbs is to dig out the area you want to plant to the desired depth, place the bulbs in the area and cover them all up again. They can be planted almost touching or with two to four inches between them for a nice “pop” of color.
In a pot
If you don’t get them planted before the ground freezes it is an easy task to plant them in a pot. Once the potted plants are properly vernalized, they can even be brought into the house to bloom. Chilling requirements vary by species (here is a nice publication on forcing potted bulbs to bloom https://sites.udel.edu/suebarton/2017/11/21/forcing-bulbs-for-february-color/).
Potted bulbs are easier to care for and can be moved around the yard or house during the blooming season. If the potted bulbs are allowed to replenish their energy in full sun, they can be planted in the yard after the tops have died down or they can be left in the pot for another show next year. If they don’t get enough light to regenerate, next year’s show won’t be as good, but the bulbs can be composted.
There is a lot of flexibility with bulbs in pots. Species can be mixed for a longer blooming season, or they can be crowded for a more intense color show.
In the ground or in a pot, bulbs give a beautiful show of color.
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