how to plant fall bulbs - Knowledgebase Question

ellisville, Mi
Question by l8dedi
August 21, 2009
would you give me the basics on how to plant fall bulbs and also how to plant fall containers with bulbs, how to store the container for winter to have spring color. I live in ST. Louis, Mo. In zone 5. Thanks Diane

Answer from NGA
August 21, 2009


In general, bulbs need average, well-drained soil with at least some humus content. Whenever you prepare a bed, it's a good idea to incorporate compost or other source of organic matter, which increases nutrients, drainage and moisture retention. Bulbs of various species should be planted anywhere from 3-8" deep, so you can "layer" them in the bed. Plant your bulbs about twice as deep as they are wide. These days you can find iris, daylilies, oriental and asiatic lilies with a wide variety of bloom times (and colors!) to keep your garden alive with flowers all summer. For late summer and fall, there's oxalis, crocosmia, tuberous begonia, lycoris, and autumn crocus (all but the last two bloomall summer long!). I highly recommend this book, which was written with gardeners like you in mind: "Bulbs: Four Seasons of Beautiful Blooms", by Lewis & Nancy Hill (Storey Communications, Pownal VT 05261; ISBN # 0-88266-877-3). It has a table showing bloom times of all common (and some uncommon) bulbs, as well as design ideas and in-depth cultural information.

In cold climates, bulbs planted in containers often don't overwinter well. Containers are exposed to repeated freezing and thawing during the winter, and this can damage the bulbs. Your best bet is to bring the containers to a protected spot, ideally one where the temperature will stay around 40 degrees F throughout the winter. This temperature will satisfy the bulbs chilling requirement. The bulbs should be kept moist, but not waterlogged. Kept in a cool spot, they shouldn't need watering very often during the winter. Check them regularly, and water them if the soil is dry at a depth of an inch or so. If you can't move your containers to a protected spot, consider burying the contains into the soil to help protect the roots of the bulbs.

Best wishes with your bulbs!

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