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Bulb Basics

The Basics of Flower Bulbs

No other types of plants will give the gardener more beauty, or a wider range of variety, color and flowering times than flowering bulbs. They will produce flowers of incredible colors from one end of the growing season to the other. Nothing else will reward you with so much pleasure for so little effort.

See the USDA Hardiness Zone Map for more information.

Fall Planting

Fall planted, spring flowering bulbs are usually hardy and can remain in the ground undisturbed for years.

Spring Planting

Spring planted, summer flowering bulbs are usually non-hardy or tender and will need to be dug up and stored before winter.

Soil Preparation

Bulbs require well-draining soil, if they are left in moist conditions they will rot. Organic matter or peat moss should be added to soil, and will promote good root development.


A bulb nutrient such as Bulb Booster can be added and mixed into the soil, but be careful not to sprinkle directly onto bulbs, this can burn them bulbs.

Planting Depth

The depth of planting for bulbs depends on their size. A good rule of thumb is that the depth should be three times the diameter of the bulb. See individual listings for specifics.

  • Small bulbs should be covered with 1-2″ of soil.
  • Large bulbs should be planted 6-8″ deep.
  • In the South, plant large bulbs 2″ shallower than the normal recommendations.


The spacing of bulbs depends largely on the effect you are trying to achieve. The most effective planting technique is to plant most bulbs in clumps in odd numbers (3,5,7) rather than in individual lines. Space bulbs according to color with the softer colors in the front and the more vibrant in the background. Group bulbs according to height and in sequential bloom pattern for a long lasting show of color.

After Planting

After planting, cover bulbs with soil, water well, and mulch with shredded leaves. In the spring when the first shoots appear, remove the mulch, sprinkle again with bulb food (Bulb Booster). This will encourage the flowering and also help recharge the bulb for the next year. If the weather is dry, water the bulbs during their growing period.

After flower blooms, cut off flower stalk and allow leaves to store energy strictly to roots for next season’s blooms. Do not allow flowers to create a seed pod, this will take much needed energy away from the bulb for flower production for next year.

Summer Flowering Bulb Care

To store summer flowering bulbs, dig the bulbs when the foliage has withered or turned brown by a light frost. Air dry in a well-ventilated area for a week. Then remove all soil from the bulbs. Bulbs must be dried before storing or they will rot. Dust the bulbs with a fungicide and store in dry peat moss or wood shavings in a brown paper bag, open crate, netted bag or even old pantyhose. Store most bulbs and bareroot perennials at 35-45 degrees F in a dry location until time to replant. Just do not let them freeze.

Quick Tips

1: Prepare

Dig out the soil to proper depth. A shovel is quicker and easier than a trowel.

2: Soil

Loosen the soil and add fertilizer. If soil is sandy, mix with peat moss or leaf compost. For clay-based soil, add sand or peat moss.

3: Plant

Place bulbs firmly in soil, pointed end up. Plant bulbs in clusters, 12 or more to produce the best effect.

4: Cover & Mulch

Cover the bulbs with soil, water well. Add two or three inches of mulch in cold areas.

Always... Never...


…plant bulbs in borders or beds with good drainage. Planting bulbs in well-drained soil is vital and the most important instruction we can give you.


…use any strong commercial fertilizer or fresh manure when planting bulbs.


…cut as little foliage as possible when cutting flowers from your bulbous plants. The leaves and foliage are essential for storing food for next year’s blooms.


…let the flower go to seed. Cut flowers as they fade and remove any seed-pods that form. Leave the foliage to keep the bulb strong.


…let the foliage die back on its own in the garden before trimming it back or digging up the bulbs. Do not trim back healthy green foliage or the bulb will not perform well next year.


…grow tulip bulbs year after year in the same place. Sooner or later they may be attacked with a fungus disease called fire blight, which affects both foliage and flowers. Either change the soil or the location; in other words, follow the principles of crop rotation.


…store bulbs in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent mold or mildew. Do not store them in an airtight container.


…dry bulbs in the sun, always in the shade in a well-ventilated area.


…label the bulbs as you plant them. Use labels that are big enough so that 2-3″ of the label is below soil level. Smaller bulbs can get heaved out of the soil during winter freezing and thawing. Labeling prevents you from accidentally digging up bulbs out of season. Do not rely on your memory.