Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

Home  >  Hardy Bulbs  >  Selection, Culture and Care  >  When and how can I plant spring-flowering bulbs?

When and how can I plant spring-flowering bulbs?

Few plants are more rewarding or easier to grow than spring flowering bulbs. They are readily available each fall in local garden centers or hardware stores. Many bulbs are also available through mail order suppliers, who send out glossy catalogs in mid-summer. Shop early in the season while the selection is good.

There are hundreds of bulb varieties from which to choose. Some of the most popular include tulips, narcissus (also called daffodils), crocus and hyacinths. Gather ideas for your own garden by strolling through the Missouri Botanical Garden in the spring.

Bulbs should be planted in drifts or groups of three or more to avoid a rigid look. They may be planted in full sun or partial shade. Bulbs do well when planted under deciduous trees, because they generally bloom before the trees leaf out. Before planting work an all purpose fertilizer such as 20-20-20 into the soil along with organic matter and sharp sand or calcined clay products such as turface to provide good drainage. Plant tulips and daffodils 7-8 inches deep, hyacinths 6 inches deep, and crocus and most small minor bulbs 3-4 inches deep. Daffodils and small bulbs are best planted by the end of October. Tulips can be planted up until the ground freezes. They need about ninety days from planting to the time they flower. After covering the bulbs with soil, mulch the area with 2-3 inches of shredded bark, leaf mold or other organic material and water to facilitate rapid root growth.

After the bulbs have bloomed, remove the spent flowers, but leave the foliage intact to die down naturally. This is called ripening. The foliage must be allowed to ripen in order for food reserves to be stored in the bulb. This food is used to produce next year's flowers.