Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs Now – You’ll Thank Yourself Later

yellow tulips

Photo courtesy of Jodi Torpey, WesternGardeners.com

Like many gardening tasks, tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and other spring bulbs demand our patience. Plant now and next spring you’ll  reap the rewards of abundant beauty. It’s a good lesson in delayed gratification!  Here are a few tips to insure success.

When to Plant

Mid to late September is ideal as the bulbs have time to develop a strong root system before a hard freeze, but can be planted into October if weather permits. Garden centers have the best selections in mid September so if needed, purchase early  and store in a cool, dry place until you can get them in the ground.

Where to Plant

You’ll want a mostly sunny location with good drainage as bulbs can rot in soggy soil. Consider where you’ll enjoy the blooms the most and what other spring flowering perennials or shrubs the bulbs will compliment. Perennials such as  pure white candytuft, (Iberis sempervirens),  lavender or pink creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) or stunning basket of gold alyssum (Allyssum sempervirens) pair nicely with mid-season bulbs. You may find some great deals on these spring blooming perennials at the local garden center right now, or divide some plants already in your beds.  Some bulbs bloom simultaneously with flowering shrubs such as forsythia (early bulbs), lilacs (mid to late bulbs).

After blooming, bulb foliage should be left on the plant to die back and re-nourish the bulb. This foliage can be camouflaged by emerging perennials or annuals, so it’s good to plan for this step now.

How to Plant

Bulbs are planted with their necks up and their hips down; a good rule of thumb is to plant 4 times the height of the bulb. Amending soil with organics such as spagham peat moss or compost is recommended. Bulbs, like most plants, won’t thrive in compacted soil.

Iris Reticulata courtesy of Jodi Torpey, Westerngardeners.com

Iris Reticulata courtesy of Jodi Torpey, Westerngardeners.com

Research at CSU has shown that in our region, Super Phosphate is the most effective fertilizer for bulbs and should be applied at the root base and in the loosened soil below the bulb so that the nourishment can be absorbed. Further, CSU’s studies indicate that bone meal is not effective in our soils, although it is frequently sold alongside bulbs.

For thorough information on soil prep, care and a planting depth chart visit

Fall-Planted Bulbs and Corms and PlanttalkColorado Bulbs:Spring Flowering

What to Look For When Selecting Bulbs

There are a wide variety of pre-packaged selections of tulips, daffodil (narcissus), hyacinths and alliums to name just a few.

Giant Alliums courtesy of Jodi Torpey, WesternGardeners.com

Giant Alliums courtesy of Jodi Torpey, WesternGardeners.com

When buying packages of bulbs, be sure to  inspect the them to insure they  are firm, uniform in size and large for the type (compare to the open bins of like bulbs is a good idea) and unscarred. Many bulbs are sold from boxes so you can make your own selection. By mixing early, mid and late bloomers of varying heights, colors and textures, you can have a spectacular start to next year’s gardening season. Just be patient.

Submitted by Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener

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