Bulbs: spring flowering
Spring-flowering bulbs should be purchased and planted in the fall, preferably in early September for largest size and selection. When selecting bulbs, avoid those with mold or mechanical damage. Bulbs can be purchased from bulb catalogs, open bins, and convenience prepacks. When selecting from an open bin, purchase bulbs that look like the others in that bin, because sometimes bulbs are inadvertently mixed up.
Bulbs can be planted until late October, but plant early in September for best establishment. Plant bulbs deeper than seed, usually three to four times the diameter of the bulb. Bulbs prefer a sandy or clay loam soil, but be sure to plant them two inches deeper in sandy soil.
After plants bloom the following spring, remove spent blossoms and apply a general- purpose fertilizer at the rate of one-quarter pound per one-hundred square feet.
Hybrid tulips that fail to bloom as a result of overcrowding should be divided. Bulbs can be dug and divided at two times of the year. The first is after the leaves have withered in late spring. Dig bulbs with a spading fork and spread them out to dry for several days. Sort by size and discard any soft, mushy bulbs, or bulbs that have mechanical damage from digging. Store the bulbs in a well ventilated, cool, dry place until they're ready to be planted in the fall.
Bulbs can also be divided in mid to late August. Dig, sort and plant as usual, but plant only the best.
There are many bulbs to choose from including tulips, which are available with an early, mid or late-season bloom. Daffodils or narcissus also offer a variety of height, colors, flower types, and blooming periods. Typically, daffodils can be left in the ground for many years. They are deer resistant, which makes them ideal if you have frequent visitors to your garden.
Crocus are also associated with spring. This early bloomer -- the first harbinger of spring -- is available in many colors. Crocus make an excellent garden edging, can be massed together for effect, or randomly planted in the turf.
Other early bloomers include snowdrop, grape hyacinth and scilla.
For "How to force bulbs indoors" refer to message number 1319.
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Updated Friday, April 19, 2013