Bulbs are reliable and hardy and can produce lovely sustained blooming throughout the early spring to late fall if properly planted and cared for. There are many types of bulbs, and they can be mixed and matched for a colorful, exotic garden. With a few basic tips and an understanding of how and when to plant and care for bulbs, even brand new gardeners can feel like experienced professionals when planting and cultivating beautiful spring bulbs.
There are several different types of bulbs that can be planted to produce beautiful spring flowers.
The first type of bulb is called a "true bulb". True bulbs include onions, lily, tulips, and daffodils, among other flowers. A fascinating fact about a true bulb is that were the bulb to be severed in the middle, the gardener would view an entire miniature version of the mature plant to be stored within the confines of the bulb itself. In the outermost inner portion of the bulb are the leaves, which are folded around an entire season's worth of bulb food that the growing bulb will access as it matures.
Corms are not full-fledged miniature flowers but rather parts of the plant to come. The primary purpose of the corm bulb is food storage, and the corm has what is called "eyes" or "growing points" that will develop into the full-fledged plant once planted. Crocus, freesias, gladiola, and others grow from corm bulbs.
Tuber bulbs include potato, anemone, lily, and ranunculus among others. It is similar to a corm in that it mainly focuses on food storage and has eyes out of which all of the full plant parts will grow and form.
The best time to plant spring bulbs is in the fall, any time before the first winter frost occurs. Once the ground is hardened with frost the bulbs will not be able to be planted.
To begin planting, locate an area that gets plenty of morning direct sunlight and shade in the afternoon. Be sure the area soil drains well as bulbs will fail to thrive in soggy ground or standing water. It is even possible to plant smaller bulbs into the lawn itself as they acclimate well with surrounding grasses. For best results, however, plant bulbs in clusters, mixing and matching for the most interesting and impactful results. Ensure that the chosen area has enriched soil, or enrich the top later of soil to a foot and a half with peat, mulch, compost, and other organic materials before planting. Prepare holes that are at least twice as deep as the bulb itself, and almost as tall as the bulb itself. Where required, be sure to place the bulb with the tip or "eyes" facing upwards, although if this step is skipped most bulbs will right themselves during the growth process. For large bulbs, allow for half a foot between plantings, and halve that for smaller bulbs.
The goal when planting spring bulbs is to allow the bulb to put down its root system before the first winter freeze. To facilitate this, water bulbs thoroughly after planting, and ensure soil remains moist throughout the fall growing season and again in the spring growing season. Bulbs will not need care through their dormant periods, which are winter and also summer for spring bulbs, unless it is necessary to remove and store bulbs to protect them from harsher winter weather. Foliage will form along with the bulbs, and this foliage in the form of leaves is needed in order for the plant to take in light and process it through photosynthesis into food during its growing seasons. However, this foliage can become yellowed or brown and unattractive later in the season, and can be removed once it is clearly serving no useful purpose.
In winter, especially with colder temperatures, it can be wise to remove and store spring bulbs for the winter season. This can also be done during summer if there are temperature extremes that could damage or kill the dormant bulb. To store, dig up the bulbs, wash them to remove clinging soil, and place them in bags with a mixture of peat and sawdust. Lightly close the top of each bag and place in a cool place like a storage shelter or refrigerator for the winter or summer season. When temperatures shift and fall or spring arrives again, remove the bulbs and replant them for the next growing season.