The Q&A Archives: planting spring bulbs

Question: I purchased tulip and hyacinth plants in pots on clearance this spring near the end of their blooming time. I dead-headed them and would like to know when I can plant them and how to prepare them for planting. Thanks!

Answer: Flower stalks can be cut back, but allow any foliage to brown and die back naturally, as it is storing food to the bulb for next year's growth. Fall is the best time to plant them, but bulbs in containers are often "forced" for quick bloom, so sometimes don't do well the following year. You can leave them in the pots in a sheltered location, occasionally monitoring soil moisture so it doesn't get too wet or dry out so bulbs don't rot or wither. It can be kind of tricky sometimes, so you might want to just plant them now.

Plant them in rich, organic soil. Choose a sunny or partly shady spot to plant your bulbs. Spread 2-3 inches of organic matter over the bed and dig it in to a depth of 8-10 inches. Tulip bulbs should be planted about 2 1/2 times the diameter of the bulb, and spaced 4-6 inches apart. So, if the bulb is two inches wide, plant it about five inches deep. 2 1/2 times the diameter of the bulb is a general rule of thumb for all bulbs. Hyacinth, depending on the plant size, might be spaced a little closer than the tulips. You can add a little bulb food or bonemeal to the hole prior to planting the bulb (which promotes blooms), and then add a layer of mulch to the top of the bed after all the bulbs are planted. Mulch material will help hold down the weeds. Good luck!

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