Question: I would like to plant some bulbs this fall for the first time. Which bulbs are best adapted to our area? Could you give me some suggestions on how to plant them?
Answer: Flower bulbs are easy to plant. They will grow even if you plant them upside down. Generally, bulbs are planted about three to four times the diameter of the bulb apart and depth. For example, a half inch bulb would be covered with 2 inches of soil and would be spaced 2 inches from the next bulb. But bulbs are usually spaced closer and at a shallower depth in containers.
Most fall planted bulbs will grow in our area. Daffodils give the best satisfaction. They are dependable, easy to grow and deer resistant. Daffodils come in white and pink bicolor shades, as well as the common yellow. The dwarf 6 inch daffodils are good for close up viewing and containers.
Tulips are the most popular fall bulb and are also quite dependable. The tall Darwin tulips are the most popular. Darwins come in a large range of colors and grow 24 to 30 inches tall. I prefer the Triumph tulips that are a little shorter at 14 to 20 inches and less likely to blow over. I really like the shorter botanical tulips (10 to 12 inches) that are more like wild tulips. Unusual tulips include bicolor, fringed and double petals.
Crocus are the earliest and shortest of the fall bulbs at 3 to 6 inches. I always like to have at least a few of them in a prominent place. Crocus comes in white, yellow and shades of purple.
My favorite spring blooming bulb besides daffodil is the hyacinth. Hyacinth has a multi-floret columnar flower with a sweet fragrance. They grow 8 to 12 inches and are suitable for cutting. Hyacinth colors include white and shades of pink and blue. Like daffodils, they are also deer resistant.
Fritllaria or crown imperial bulbs have fussier growing requirements but are worth the effort. They make quite a statement with their hanging bell shape flowers on 30 to 40 inch plants. They are very deer resistant.
Allium or ornamental onion is another tall striking, specimen bulb with large ball shaped blooms in lavender shades. It is also deer resistant and blooms in late spring.
Summer blooming lilies can also be planted now. There are a few other bulbs that you may find interesting, such as muscari, scilla, grape hyacinth and windflower.
Bulbs are available in stores now with the best selection in full service nurseries. Hollandbulbfarms.com is a reliable online source that is currently offering discount prices.
Most of my bulbs are planted the same place I plant my annual flowers. I use a 2 inch wide hand trowel to dig holes between flowers for the bulbs. I also plant bulbs (especially daffodils) in ground cover plantings. Sometimes I have to remove a bit of ground cover to make holes for bulbs. Bulbs grow well in containers, including ones that are also used for annual flowers. Bulbs prefer well-drained soils, so if you have a clay soil, be sure to add organic matter, such as bark dust (soil pep) before planting.