Where and When to Plant:
Here in East Texas most spring blooming bulbs should be planted between late September and early November in well drained soil. The soil can’t be soggy at any time of the year. They need sun to part shade. A location with only morning sun is good because the flowers last longer if they aren’t in the warmer afternoon sun. Planting under deciduous trees is also ok because the trees loose their leaves in the fall allowing the bulbs to get sun during the winter and spring when they are growing.
Bulbs that naturalize (come back year after year) do not need prechilling. The beautiful Holland type tulips that are so showy in the spring will need to be chilled to bloom well here in Texas. Without the required chilling the bulbs will bloom but the flower stalks will be about 3″ tall. The bulbs need to be stored in a mesh (not paper) bag in the refrigerator (not the freezer!) for 6-8 weeks. Do not store apples in the refrigerator at the same time that the bulbs are chilling. The fruit puts off a gas as it is ripening which will cause the flowers to be deformed. You can expect your chilled bulbs to bloom approximately 8 weeks after planting so if you start chilling your bulbs in mid November they would be ready to plant in mid January and you could expect blooms in mid to late March. Some bulbs are sold prechilled.
Species tulips are a shorter variety of tulips that naturalize here in Texas. They require no prechilling to come back year after year.
How to Plant:
Planting your bulbs in groups shows the flowers to a better advantage. Larger bulbs should be planted in groups of at least 3, smaller bulbs are better with 5 or more in a group. This also makes planting easier-dig one hole large enough for the number of bulbs you are planting. Spacing is up to you but remember, if you plant too close together you will need to dig and divide the bulbs sooner to maintain good flowering. Bulbs should be planted with the pointy end up. They need to be planted 3 times deeper than they are tall. That means that the smaller Ipheion, Grape Hyacinth, and species tulip bulbs will be planted in holes 3-4” deep. The larger daffodil bulbs should be planted in holes 5-6” deep. A neat fact about daffodils-if you don’t plant them deep enough they will use their roots to pull themselves down to the depth they want! When planting naturalizing bulbs (under normal conditions you can expect them to come back every year) it would be good to mix compost or fertilizer into the soil at the base of the bulbs and into the soil when you cover them. Water the bulbs well after planting to settle the soil. Like in the rest of your garden 3-4″ of organic mulch is good for bulbs. It helps maintain moisture in the soil and moderates the soil temperature. Organic mulches (like wood chips) also break down over time into compost which then acts as a slow release fertilizer.
Care After Blooming:
After blooming naturalizing bulbs need to be left with their foliage on. The foliage feeds the bulb to produce the next year’s flowers. You can also deadhead (remove the spent flowers) to help the plant use its energy in flower production. Grape Hyacinths are a notable exception to the deadheading option. They often spread by seed-sometimes popping up in unexpected places. Foliage can be removed when it starts to yellow. Most spring blooming bulbs do not need to be watered in the summer.
Daylilies make great companion plantings for daffodils. They leaf out as the bulbs finish blooming and help hide the dying foliage.