Below, is a list of popular questions and our answers. Tips for planting our spring flowering bulbs follow the Q & A's.
When do I plant daffodil and tulip bulbs?
Plant these bulbs in the fall months--September, October, November for optimum results. As a guideline, tell yourself to get them planted by Thanksgiving. If you should realize that you forgot to them by that time it is okay to plant them later, even into february. They will bloom later than they would normally of course but you will still be able to enjoy them. Do not hold bulbs over until the next fall that you forgot to plant as they will not survive that long.
When do I need to dig my bulbs?
The bulbs go into a dormant period about 6 to 8 weeks after blooming and this is the ideal time to dig. Basically, you need to wait until the foliage has died back before digging. Until the foliage turns yellow and dries up it is working to send nutrients back to the bulb to help form next years flower. So by digging too early you could jeopardize having a flower for the following season. These bulbs do not need to be dug every year unless you want to relocate them or remove them from that area. Another reason to dig your bulbs is to divide them as they multiply, (every 3 to 5 years). The signal that this should be done is that you will notice you are getting a lot of foliage compared to the amount of flowers thus meaning that they are crowded and need to have the smaller bulbs separated off of the mother bulbs.
When do I fertilize and with what?
Fertilize with something like 5-10-10 at time of planting and again each fall. These bulbs are heavy users of fertilizers and it is definitely an advantage to remember to do this. Some swear by just bone meal and that is a good start, but a full spectrum fertilizer is also necessary for the long term.
Why don't my tulips come back year after year like daffodils?
Tulips are a different type of bulb and in turn multiply much differently than daffodils-tulip bulbs grow to a top size and then shatter into many smaller bulbs of which probably none will be of even blooming size for several more years. For those reasons it is best to replace tulip bulbs every year to be assured that you get that big blast of color like you had the first year you planted them. Also, tulip bulbs are edible to rodents like mice that have a knack for finding them in your yard.
How deep do I plant these bulbs?
The planting depth is determined by how cold your winters are. Here in the Northwest, 5 to 6 inches is adequate. Climates that have much colder winters must plant deeper.
What do I do with the foliage/leaves after they have flowered?
The foliage and leaves are very important to the future flower production of the plant. Do not cut it off right after the flowers fade, instead, let it continue to grow until it begins to turn yellow and die back down. Sometimes, if it is unruly, you may fold it out of your way, but do not remove it until it has yellowed or dried up.
Can you plant these bulbs in pots?
Yes! They do very well in containers and are even easier to manage after blooming. But...remember they are more susceptible to cold weather freezing in a pot rather than in the ground. So take the necessary precautions to protect your pots. Also, they must have adequate drainage- make sure that you have holes in the bottom of your containers and do not use the saucers underneath the pots if you have set them out where Mother Nature waters them frequently as they will hold too much water. These bulbs do not like soggy wet feet.
Do they need sun or shade?
They like both. They can handle either. All shade will make them bloom just a little later perhaps.
How thick should they be planted?
It depends on your space and budget. They look best if planted in clumps of at least 5 or 10 bulbs each and planted about 2 - 4 inches apart.
What size bulbs are best to buy?
Top size bulbs, which are the most expensive bulbs, will give you the largest, strongest flowers. They will also multiply more quickly. Daffodil bulbs of top size will normally have two flowers or more per bulb. Often bulk bulb specials offer a smaller size bulb. A benefit of this smaller size is that once planted, it will usually be 5 years before they need to be dug and divided. This is the size usually chosen for larger mass plantings and naturalizing. Tulips always have only one flower per bulb, (unless they are the multi-flower types).
Bulbs that are to be planted in the fall months must then endure the winter season as they are growing, and thus must be planted at depths that provide a safe barrier from the freezing temperatures. Here in the Pacific Northwest we can safely plant bulbs 6" inches underground and that will protect them even if the temperatures dip into the teens (F) for a week. In our area, standing water is more of a concern than the cold temperatures as bulbs do not like wet feet for an extended period of time. Good drainage is important and is also something to keep in mind when planting these bulbs in containers as well -- excess water must be able to drain out of the bottom of each planter.
Bulbs prefer soil conditions with a neutral pH of 7.0. They can tolerate a little variance though. If you know that your soil has a lower pH, of say 5.5, then you would want to add lime to that area to help raise the pH to higher levels. Tulips in particular do not do well over an extended time if pH levels are low. The best time to add lime to your soil is in the fall. Work it into the soil where you will plant your bulbs. Follow the instructions on the bag of lime for desired results.
After your daffodils and tulips bloom it is best to pick off the dying flowers and discard them. This is for two reasons: 1) as the flower head withers and decays it tends to mold; when this happens, the mold spores fall onto the live and growing foliage which can then infect the rest of the plant which stops the growing cycle; 2) a seed pod is located just behind the flowerhead and if this is removed with the flower it allows all the energy of the plant to be put into the bulb and next years flower production.
Mice have a hearty appetite for tulip and crocus bulbs. And, with the help of a moles ability to dig through your freshly planted flower beds, the mice gain access to your bulbs. An alternative is to plant these bulbs in a container such as a pot or can, with holes in the bottom for drainage, and this will protect them from those types of pests. Deer are also a problem for tulip flowers once they have sprouted up, they like to eat the flowers right off at the ground. So keep that in mind. Daffodil bulbs are poisonous and are not bothered by rodents and animals.