How To Care For Your Bulbs?
Bulbs are perhaps one of the most valuable and productive friends a flower gardener can have. Cared for properly, they seem to automatically provide life and color. But after bulbs finish flowering, there’s the ugly aftermath. Faded, collapsed petals; wilted and yellowing leaves and stems. What’s a gardener to do?
Here are tips to keeping your bulbs healthy and happy:
Identify the type of bulb
Deadheading is the act of removing the flower parts after the plant has finished blooming. Deadheading is key for stopping the bulb from going to seed, but the trick is to remove only the flower parts and keep all the leaves intact. This is because you want the foliage to continue the work of photosynthesis in order to store energy and food in that bulb underground.
If you want to naturalize them – that is, encourage them to come back — you want to make sure they have enough nutrients to help them complete the job. That means fertilizing bulbs four to six weeks before they flower. It’s important to note that not all bulbs naturalize well. Most of the narcissi/daffodils do, but tulips generally do not. A general rule of thumb is while you may get four to five years out of your daffodils, you’ll be lucky to get a strong two from your tulips.
The sweet spot planting time in my area is between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It can be pretty chilly, but don’t let that deter you. Arbor Hill Tree Farm has planted bulbs as late as January when we’ve had a slow winter. We’ve planted them in a freezing November where we had to crack out an inch of frost to get to the pliable earth. We’ve even planted them in December through a couple of inches of snow. The point is…cold is okay for the bulbs. It may make you a little uncomfortable, but the bulbs…they’ll be more than fine.