Calculating the Number of Bulbs To Buy
For a longer show, you can plant two types of bulbs on top of each other in the same bed. Plant smaller bulbs such as crocus on top of larger bulbs such as tulips. Dig the bed to the depth of the larger bulbs. Plant and cover these with a thin layer of soil. Place the smaller bulbs on top and cover these bulbs to the soil line.
If rodents such as voles or mice are widespread in your area and have been known to eat bulbs during winter, consider lining the bottom and sides of the bed with wire mesh before planting. Lay wire over the bed once planted, too. Remove the top wire mesh in spring.
Photography by NationalGardening.com
Bulbs can be planted in containers, be mixed with other plantings, or just grow in a bed by themselves. If you want to create the stunning look of a massed planting of one kind of tulip or daffodil, you first need to figure how many bulbs should you buy.
Tools and Materials
Counting your bulbs. To simplify your bulb-buying calculations, we created this table of the most popular bulbs and their planting density in various-sized beds. Just measure the size of your bed and decide which type of bulb you want to plant, and the chart will determine how many bulbs you should buy. Of course, depending on both the effect you're trying to create and your budget, you can adjust the actual number of bulbs you plant. For example, for the most dramatic and showy effect, buy more bulbs than indicated and plant them closer. If you're mixing other bulbs in the bed to provide contrast to the main flower variety, buy fewer bulbs and plant them farther apart.
Selecting bulbs. When selecting bulbs, remember that the larger the bulb, the more flowers it will produce the first year after planting. For the most dramatic effect, plant only one variety. If you want to stagger and elongate the flowering period, plant early, midseason, and late-season varieties of the same type of bulb, and group them by bloom season.
Planting bulbs. To create a bulb bed, till the bed and remove rocks, roots, and weeds (and sod if area is still lawn), then amend the soil with a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost. Based on a soil test, adjust the pH to between 6 and 7. Spread a granular bulb fertilizer (9-9-6) on the planting area.
Space the bulbs evenly apart in the bed, but avoid arranging them like soldiers in a straight line; staggered spacing will give the bulbs a more natural look when they bloom. Follow the planting depths suggested for the various bulbs. A good rule of thumb: plant in a hole three times as deep as the bulb's greatest diameter. Water the bed well.
After the show is over. After flowering is finished, let the foliage yellow naturally before cutting it back, and plant annual flowers such as zinnias or marigolds in the bed to provide summer color. Be careful digging in the bed so not to disturb the bulbs. (Note: Many gardeners plant tulips for one springtime show only because bloom in succeeding years is rarely as dramatic. Therefore, especially in the case tulips that you don't expect to rebloom, pull faded leaves immediately after flowers fade.)