By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener
At this time of year, it is difficult to get excited about spring when we know what must come first … fall then winter! However, late summer is exactly the time to think about spring bulbs because they must be planted in the fall in order to bloom the following spring.
As with all plants, you need to take into consideration the amount of light needed, soil and moisture requirements. Most bulbs require full sun to part shade, well drained loam soil and watering when dry. Note that bulbs may rot when over-watered.
Some sources suggest adding bone meal to the planting hole. Bone meal adds phosphorus to the soil which may encourage bulb growth but may also harm some of the other beneficial soil constituents. It is prudent to test your soil first.
Plant bulbs with the pointed end up and to a depth of 2-3 times the diameter of the bulb. You may sprinkle blood meal over the planting site or cover with chicken wire to discourage squirrels and chipmunks from digging them up.
Plant your spring flowering bulbs any time between September to December … as long as you are still able to work the ground.
Spring flowering bulbs are lovely in a formal garden as well as in more natural settings. For naturalization of spring bulbs, please see Bulbs for Naturalizing.
Now the really fun part, what to choose! Check at your local nursery to see what they have in stock and/or what they may be ordering in. Choose large, undamaged bulbs. It is also likely that your favourite on-line supplier carries spring flowering bulbs. I would suggest that you do this well before you plan to plant to ensure that you are able to get what you want.
Tulips – We are all familiar with the large colourful, showy tulips. Their blooms may be cup shaped, fringed, double or ruffled. This fall, I plan to plant some, new-to me species tulip bulbs. While species tulips are smaller than the tulips that we are most accustomed to, they are colourful, very hardy and have a more open flower.
Hyacinth – You can not beat the magnificent fragrance of hyacinth blooms in the spring. They come in several colours, single or double and are accompanied by strong, strappy leaves. Hyacinths also produce nectar so provide food for some of our early foraging pollinators.
Narcissus – The spring flowering bulb, in the genus Narcissus, is more commonly called a daffodil. Bloom colours range from bright yellow to cream to white and combinations of these colours. Daffodils are cheerful flowers. I always smile when I see them especially in a natural setting.
Crocus – Crocus “bulbs” are actually corms. What is the difference??, check here. These are probably the first of the fall plantings that you will see in the spring. Crocus blooms are tube shaped and come in various colours. The plant is low growing and does well when naturalized.
The above are some of the more often seen spring flowering bulbs but there are more. Please see Landscape Ontario for additional suggestions.