I’ve been bad. I was given some bulbs this past autumn but for one reason or another, never got them in the ground. The ideal time to plant bulbs is about six weeks before the ground freezes in your area. This gives the bulbs time to root and establish themselves. We’ve already experienced one ground freeze about four weeks ago. Recently the snow melted and temps were in the 50s. I got busy and buried 75 tulip bulbs before the predicted rains began. But am I too late?
I’ve seen gardeners plant daffodils in the snow and they were beautiful the following spring. Below left: An images from a Master Gardener project I documented. The gardeners were planting daffodil bulbs in January snow. Below right: Great results despite the late planting.
This is my first time ever planting bulbs. It’s easy, but tedious if you have several bulbs to plant. It’s the digging that gets you. I don’t own one of those fancy bulb dibbles. I did all my digging with a trowel and fortunately have nice tillable soil to work with.
So, what is the best time to plant bulbs?
When the average nighttime temperature in your area is 40-to 50-degree range. For northern climates, plant in September or October, in warmer climates, you may need to plant in December or later.
If you plant too early, they might come up before the weather gets colds then die once frost comes. Planting too early can also lead to fungus or disease problems.
What if you miss the ideal time?
Let’s be honest. This happens, but don’t wait for spring or the next fall because bulbs do not survive above the ground indefinitely. If you find that you have bulbs that need to get in the ground, take your chances by planting them as soon as you can.
Here’s how I did it:
Step 1: I arranged the bulbs where I wanted them above ground. This helped me visualize the spacing and layout. Hard as you may try, it’s difficult to remember your layout once they’re underground. That’s why you start with everything layed out above ground.
Step 2: One by one, I dug a hole for each bulb. All bulbs should come with specific planting instructions. Generally speaking, tulip bulb holes should be 8 inches deep. Refer to the chart below for other bulb depth guidelines. Some bulbs will look nice planted in clumps rather than individually.
Step 3: With the hole prepared, I placed the bulb in the hole with the pointy-side up. I gently pressed the bulb into the bottom of the hole just to ensure that it did not roll or tip over.
Step 4: Next, I gently sprinkled soil back in the hole being careful not let the bulb tip over as I filled in the soil. Once covered, I patted it down with my hands.
Step 5: You can lightly water the bulbs after planting to help begin the process of growing, but do not soak them or they may decay and die. I did not water as the soil was moist and rain was predicted for later that day.
So now I wait. The bulbs will lie dormant for the remainder of winter. I think it’s gonna work despite my procrastination. I did not add any bulb food or fertilizer as I figured these bulbs were already well fed and programmed for next spring. Hey, they’re lucky they even got in the ground!! Stay tuned for a progress report.