Ahhh, the time is near. Those bulbs you planted last fall are about to emerge in full Spring color.
To continue this parade of healthy daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, the bulbs need some tender, loving care.
TIPS FOR TAKING CARE OF SPRING BULBS:
Fertilize once every three to four weeks, and continue while the bulbs are blooming through the time the foliage begins to wither. Use a granular slow release fertilizer suggested for bulbs. The fertilizer will help provide nutrients for the bulbs and will help prepare the bulbs for the following year’s blooms. Once you remove the mulch, fertilize around the bulbs at the recommended rate. Use a trowel to work the fertilizer into the ground carefully so you do not hit the bulbs.
WATERING—Bulbs normally do not require watering as they emerge and bloom. If you find the soil to be dry, use a soaker hose to allow the water to slowly go into the ground for about 30 minutes per area.
COLD WEATHER PROTECTION
If cold weather is forecast when your bulbs are in bloom, there are ways to protect them from freezing. Make a tent with a lightweight fabric or newspaper and place it over your plants. Be sure the protective tent you place over the flowers does not rest on the blooms. If strong winds are predicted, secure the covering to keep it in place against the wind. To be sure your flowers survive extreme cold temperatures, you can always cut the bulbs that are flowering and bring them inside to enjoy as an indoor arrangement.
PLANNING FOR NEXT SEASON
While you are enjoying the bulbs that you planted last fall, you may note long intervals in their bloom sequence, poor placement or unharmonious color. Noting any of these will help you decide where you can add bulbs, relocate bulbs or plan a better color scheme when you plant in the fall. To avoid damaging bulbs once you begin to plant annuals or perennials above or near the bulbs, mark the location by making a map or place garden markers to show where bulbs are planted.
FOR A SHOWIER DISPLAY
Once individual flowers finish blooming, remove the flower stem down to the base. By doing this, bulbs can absorb the food made by the leaves to create next year’s bloom. Known as “deadheading,” this procedure is best done with the larger bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. The smaller bulbs like crocus and grape hyacinths do not need deadheaded unless they are planted in small quantities. Allow the foliage to die back completely before cutting leaves to ground level. Many people have tried braiding or tying the waning bulb foliage. Avoid that task, and instead, camouflage the spent foliage by planting perennials or annuals where the foliage has died back.
DIGGING UP BULBS AND DIVIDING
Bulbs will multiply underground, so it is best not to disturb them. When they become too crowded, fewer or smaller blooms are produced. When this happens, carefully lift out bulbs and divide them, but wait until the foliage has died back before lifting bulbs and dividing them. For large blooms each Spring, lift, divide and replant the bulbs in enriched soil and fertilize them. Prepare the soil, plant and fertilize by using the same procedure as you would for bulbs purchased in the fall. Take good care of your Spring bulbs, and you will enjoy an abundance of flowering bulbs for many seasons.
Carole McCray is an award-winning garden and lifestyle writer and artist who lives, writes gardens and paints in the scenic Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania. She won the 2003 Garden Writers Award of Achievement for her article on Native Seeds published in The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper.
All Plant Photos courtesy The Netherlands Bulb Information Center North America.