Planting fall bulbs for spring color

Published 6:00 pm Saturday, October 1, 2022

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By Carrie Spry

Clary County Extension Office

Fall is the time to think about all those flowers we associate with spring: daffodils, crocus, and other easy-to-grow flowering bulbs. If you aren’t growing any spring-flowering bulbs in your landscape, you are missing out on some easy-to-grow plants that provide early color to your garden. 

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These bulbs are planted in fall because it corresponds to the end of their natural dormancy. Most of these plants begin root growth in fall, followed by a cool stratification period necessary for proper flower development (AKA winter) and then shoot growth in late winter and early spring.   

No matter which bulbs you select, remember that the largest bulbs will produce the greatest show next spring.  However, smaller bulbs will still produce some flowers, and these may be the best choice for mass planting or naturalizing. Avoid any bulbs that feel lightweight, as these may have severely dried during storage.

It’s important to plant flowering bulbs at the proper depth. The rule of thumb is to plant bulbs two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. Example: If your bulb is 2” tall, it should be planted deep enough to have 4” to 6” of soil over the top of it. Most bulbs do not need fertilization until growth emerges in the spring. Even then, about one tablespoon per five square feet of 10-10-10 is enough.

Once flowering occurs, remove the faded blooms, but don’t remove the foliage. The leaves produce sugars and other compounds necessary for the bulb to overwinter and bloom the next spring again. I know the foliage often gets ugly in the summer, but for large, healthy blooms next year, you need to leave the foliage as long as it is green. 

Last, if you are itching to get your hands on free bulbs, then you will want to make plans to come to the Clark Extension Fall Festival on October 8th from 5: p.m. Hopefully, you were already planning to come, but if free flower bulbs are what it takes to get you there, we will have them! And congratulations on making it thru this article too.