By The Old House Web


Planting hardy bulbs this autumn will pay off next spring when your garden bursts into bloom! Often during planting, minor bulbs are overlooked in favor of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. It is forgotten that many of these less common plants bloom very early and prosper in the shade- ideal early spring flowers. Although they are smaller, they cost less; allowing more bulbs to be planted. Many of these minor bulbs spread rapidly, forming drifts of color in the garden.

At planting time, it should be noted that many of these minor bulbs do not like clay or heavy soil. Clay soils hold too much moisture, causing bulb rot. It is wise to modify heavier soils by adding sand and peat. A sandy loam soil is ideal for many of these minor bulbs. It is also wise to prepare the soil at least 2 inches deeper than the planting depth to ensure room for good root development. Add a high prosphorus fertilizer such as bonemeal into the soil at planting time to promote good root growth and encourage flower production.

Proper depth and spacing are important. Never plant bulbs less deeply, as they many not survive the winter or may send up shoots too early and suffer frost damage. The bulbs may be planted slightly deeper, but they will not grow as tall and may emerge later than normal. In a frost pocket area, this may be a desirable advantage. The smaller bulbs should be planted about 2 to 3 inches apart. This allows for uncrowded root development and minimal competition for nutrients, as well as providing room for bulbs to multiply and spread. The bulbs are most effective if planted informally in clusters or drifts. For a grouping to bloom at the same time and height, they should be planted at exactly the same depth. A beautiful backdrop is created when minor bulbs are grown with larger bulbs. The large bulbs should be planted first, the soil then filled in to the appropriate level for the minor bulbs, which are they planted.

Most minor bulbs prefer full sun, but many will grow in shady areas. They should always be placed in an area where their foliage will not be unsightly after blooming, and should be planted in the middle or back of the flower bed so they will be visible when perennials aren't tall enough to compete.

Before March 30, those plants that are very early bloomers will begin to flower. The Snowdrop, a white bell flower on 7" stem should be planted 3" deep, 2" apart in very large groups. The Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), whose Yellow buttercup flowers bloom 3-8" tall, should be planted 3" deep, 2" apart in very large clusters. It is advisable to soak corms overnight in warm water before planting to ensure maximum growth. The Iris reticulata, a purple iris, 6" tall should be planted 3" deep, 3" apart and will tolerate some shade. The foliage will die down in late spring. Iris danfordiae, like the Iris reticulata is yellow.

April 1-15 is early blooming time for another group of flowers. The Windflower (Anemone blanda), with its white or purple daisy-like flowers is 6" tall. Because it is not reliably hardy in heavy soils, it should be planted 3" deep, 3" apart. The Crocus (Crocus species) comes in a variety of colors - with yellow, white, purple, lavender, and striped cup-like flowers, all of which reach 8" tall. As they are rampant spreaders, they should be planted in large clumps 3" deep and at least 3" apart. The Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) is known for its true-blue bell flowers perched on 6" stalks and should be planted 3" deep, 3" apart in large groups. The Grape Hyacinth (Muscari botryoides) has unusual purple-blue flowers in tight clusters on 8" stems. Best when planted 3" apart and 3" deep, these will spread quite nicely, and their foliage appears in autumn. Two varieties of Fritillaria (Fritillaria imperialis and meleagris) are early bloomers. Characterized by their reddish-yellow-brown pendant flowers on 18"-36" stalks, they are not reliably hardy in heavy soils.

Several of these bulbs are very late bloomers, flowering as late as June 6 to July 1. The Golden Garlic (Allium moly), whose yellow clusters rest on 12" stems, should be planted 3" deep, 4" apart in groups of at least 12. The Golden Garlic tolerates shade well and is not edible. Allium oreophilum is a variety similar to Golden Garlic, but is characterized by reddish mauve flowers. The Giant Allium (Allium giganteum) is the largest of blooms, sprouting huge (10" diameter) purplish flowers on 36-48" stems in late June. The Giant Allium should be planted 8" deep, 12" apart. It is unique in that after a few years the bulbs can be dug and divided.


"Minor Bulbs Can Have Major Impact in the Landscape" by Nancy J Butler Cooperative Extension Service, Weed'em and Reap-MSU

Go To Top of File               Main Page for this Data Base

Search Improvement Project