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With fall just around the corner, now is the time to think about planting bulbs for spring blooms. Next winter, when your neighbor’s daffodils begin pushing up from the frosty earth and spring fever hits like sugar in the veins, it will be too late to add them to your landscape.
Procrastinators, let this be a gentle reminder. Unlike many annuals and perennials that can be purchased at your local nursery on a whim and in-season, plants that grow from bulbs (including corms, tubers, and rhizomes) take a bit of advanced planning.
The planning starts now.
What is a bulb?
A bulb is a storage organ for specific plants that lie dormant during winter.
Within the bulb, a plant has all the food reserves it needs to grow and flourish—the roots, stem, leaves, and flowers. Think of a bulb as a potent package of flower power. Although you may have already begun dreaming of The Great Pumpkin, when spring rolls around, you’ll be craving fresh blossoms that only bulbs can provide.
There are two types of bulbs—spring and summer bulbs. Spring bulbs are planted in fall. This variety is considered hardy because they need the cold winter temperatures to wake from dormancy. Summer bulbs, which are planted in spring, are considered tender because most can’t survive freezing temperatures.
The bulbs we will be planting this fall are hardy bulbs. Favorite hardy bulbs include tulips, iris, daffodils, hyacinth, allium, and crocus. (We will discuss summer bulbs another time.)
Just as you inspect apples and tomatoes at the grocery store, you should take care when buying bulbs, too. While it may not always be possible to visually inspect bulbs due to packaging or mail-order, these guidelines will help you select the best bulbs for your hard-earned bucks:
A fun and efficient way to add color and variety to your garden throughout spring is to layer your bed planting with early, mid, and late-blooming bulbs. This method, sometimes called lasagna planting, ensures you will have blooms throughout spring.
To do this, dig your bed approximately nine inches deep. Add a layer of compost or potting soil. Plant bulbs that require deep planting, such as daffodil and/or tulips. Add another layer of soil. Plant hyacinth bulbs (or similar) at 6-inch depth. Add another layer of soil. Plant crocus bulbs (or similar) at a 4-inch depth. Add another layer of soil. Plant anemones or other bulbs that prefer shallow planting at a 2-inch depth. Add soil and top dress with pansies or other fall annuals, along with a layer of mulch. This method works well in a large pot, too.
After a successful spring blooming season, your inclination may be to trim away all the tired foliage and toss everything in the compost. But don’t! The final step when planting and growing bulbs is to not fuss over them at season’s end. Follow these steps, and you will enjoy spring blooms for years to come:
With the exception of tulips, most hardy spring bulbs will multiply and grow larger each year. Tulips may come back for several years in Arkansas, but when it happens, I consider it to be a welcomed garden surprise. For the most part, it’s best to treat tulips as annuals in Arkansas and add new bulbs to your garden each fall.
Even though fall is my favorite season, I always find the end of summer to be bittersweet. And for me, planting bulbs for spring blooms is like planting hope. This year, in particular, I need extra hope. Yes, I’ll be planting extra bulbs.
What about you? What bulbs will you be planting this fall in your Arkansas garden?
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