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By Pat Roome, Master Gardener & ENN Member 


Spring Flowering Bulbs  

Are you planning to buy spring bulbs for your yard or for forcing to bloom in the house?

Many people tell me that they haven’t had great success when they grow Spring Bulbs. Here are some ideas that can help you be successful in growing bulbs this coming season.



  • Purchase your bulbs as soon as they arrive in the stores. They can be damaged from being handled by shoppers
  • Buy the biggest and heaviest bulbs you can find.
  • Avoid bulbs with broken scales or black areas
  • Plant the bulbs as soon as you can. Bulbs need at least 10 weeks to grow their roots before the leaves can grow.


Planting in your yard

               Plant Daffodils and Narcissus 4”-6” deep, your soil is probably compacted and infertile deeper than that. Ignore directions of the package, those are for areas where the ground freezes. Fertilize the soil under the bulb using a bulb fertilizer or chicken manure. Bone meal is not available to plants for years .

               Tulips and crocus bulbs are often eaten by Squirrels and rodents. To prevent this happening plant these bulbs in a place that has ground cover plants. Alternatively buy a 4” pot of an ever-green ground-cover plant such as a Sweet Violet or a Winter Pansy and plant it on top of your bulb.

               Small bulbs can be planted 2” 3” deep, plant your Pansy just to the side of the bulb. If you buy Anemones, keep them until February before planting them. They can rot when suddenly exposed to wet soil when they themselves are very dry.


Planting bulbs in a pot for forcing early flowers.

               Select lower growing bulbs. 14”- 16” Tulips are ideal. Early flowering daffodils are only 8”-10” high.

               Use a container which has a drain hole and is at least 8” deep if planting Daffodils or Tulips. Small bulbs can be grown in a 4”-6” container. In a wide and deep container you can put big bulbs deep in the soil and plant small bulbs on top of them. This gives you a longer lasting  display.

               Plant in bagged garden or a multi-purpose soil. Potting soils tend to be too dense and bulbs need a free draining soil.

               Put your container of bulbs out-side the house for a minimum of 10 weeks. Bulbs need cold temperatures to develop their roots. Cover the pot with Row Cover or a sack to deter rodents from disturbing them. Check every week or so that the soil is moist.

               Bring the pots into a cool but lighted area of the house, when the leaves start growing. Wait until the flower buds are showing before bringing them into your living area.

               Some bulbs can be forced to bloom if they are placed in water. Hyacinths can be put into a forcing glass container (Molbak’s has them). Place a toilet roll core over the bulb to keep the leaves upright as they grow, remove it when you can see the flower bud. Keep the water level at the base of the plant.


To force Paper White bulbs use a 6” deep bowl without a drain hole. Place 1”-2” round rocks in the bowl. Plant the bowl 6 weeks before you want the bulbs to flower. Place the bulbs wedged between the rocks and fill with water to the base of the bulb. Place the bowl in a cool area of the house and cover with an overturned paper grocery bag. When the bulbs are 6” tall cut the base of the bag out but leave the sides to hold the leaves vertical. Top up the water as necessary. Bring into the living area when the buds start to break. Tie a wide ribbon around the leaves. Enjoy the fragrance.


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