TIME TO PLANT BULBS FOR SPRING COLOR
As we await the arrival of cooler temperatures and the soothing, comforting colors of Fall, now is the time to consider planning and planting for the dazzlingly vibrant colors we anticipate next Springs.
Spring-flowering bulbs are planted as temperatures begin to cool and night-time lows approach 40-50 degrees F. Planting should be done 6-8 weeks before the ground freezes, which will give the bulbs an opportunity to set down roots and chill through the winter in preparation for Springs blooms. Crocus, hyacinth, daffodil, and iris are colorful, prolific bloomers that are perennials in Northeast Texas. Tulips, on the other hand tend to be annuals and may need to be replanted each year.
Site selection should provide for at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Many bulbs will do well beneath deciduous trees that won’t leaf out until late Spring after the bulbs have already bloomed. Bulbs may rot in low areas where water accumulates, so they should be planted in well-drained soil. Soil preparation entails loosening the soil to a depth of 8-12 inches, removing weeds, and adding amendments such as compost or peat moss and working it into the soil. Plant the bulbs pointy-end up, root-end down. The rule-of-thumb for depth is to plant the bulb three times as deep as it is wide. Most packages of bulbs contain directions for planting depth. Shallower depths may be preferred in heavy clay soils. After planting, tamp the soil lightly and water the bulbs in. When colder weather arrives, cover the bulbs with a couple of inches of mulch. This will keep the soil from heaving during freezes and thaws over the winter. Mulching too heavily when the ground is still warm may damage the bulbs. Bulbs like to be in cold soil to develop their full blooming potential for the Spring.
A landscape for Spring color with bulbs may include using bulbs as edging for established beds, planting bulbs for a succession of blooms over several weeks, or using varying heights of blooming bulbs in the same bed. Rather than choosing too many colors in small areas, two or three colors will add interest and focus to your gardens. Bulbs tend to multiply, so after a couple of years you may need to dig up, separate, and make another bulb garden…or share your extra bulbs with friends and neighbors.
Bulbs may be purchased from nurseries, garden centers, or on-line. A true bulb is a miniature of a plant encased in modified leaves. Choose bulbs that are full and firm. Reject any bulbs that are brittle, moldy or mushy. Planting healthy bulbs is essential to successful Spring blooms. Following several weeks of enjoying Spring blooms, cut off the spent flower, but leave the green leaves, as they are storing energy for next year’s blooms. After the leaves turn yellow or brown, cut them off at grounds level and dispose of the discarded leaves.
Enjoy! Spring bulbs are fun and easy to grow. It is a great way for novice gardeners to get started in this most wonderful of pursuits.