Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Spring is the time of year when you’ll find a great assortment of flowering bulbs, such as Paperwhites, Daffodils (also known as Narcissus), and Hyacinth. All of these are considered “hardy” bulbs that love the cold weather, and bloom in the early spring.
Cold Weather Trigger
Since they are cold lovers (think Scandanavia) they need to be planted in the late fall through early winter, or as soon as the ground becomes cool. They won’t bloom properly unless they have been through a “chilling period” of at least 10 to 16 weeks prior to sprouting in the spring. These cool temperatures trigger the process inside the bulb which produces growth and causes the plant to flower in the springtime. In warmer climates like ours, some people even store their bulbs in the refrigerator for several weeks to ensure proper chilling.
Paperwhites are another favorite bulb to plant in the fall, with the added benefit that they don’t need to be chilled first.
Not only is the fall season the only correct time to plant these bulbs, but it is also the only time of the year that these bulbs are available for purchase since they are harvested during the summer months.
They arrive in our store in a dormant state. Once they’re planted in fertile soil and well-watered, they will need a few weeks to re-establish and start growing in their new location.
Sunny and Bright
Fall bulbs like lots of sunshine, and since the leaves on your trees and shrubs probably are not out yet in early spring, you can plant bulbs just about anywhere. Just make sure the soil is well drained. Soggy soil will cause your bulbs to rot in the ground.
Prepare the planting bed by working in fresh organic compost. Then get your bulb planter ready!
This standard bulb planter hand tool from DeWit is the perfect size and shape for making your planting hole.
#1: Prepare the Hole
Loosen the soil in your planting bed to a depth of at least 8 inches. Remove any weeds, rocks or other debris. Mix in some fresh, organic compost and some or slow-release organic fertilizer, such as Bone Meal, Espoma Bulb-tone, Bat Guano, or Hi-Yield Dutch Bulb Food.
# 2: Pointy End Up
The larger the bulb, the deeper you want to plant it. As a general rule, big bulbs should be set at a depth of about 8 inches. Smaller ones can be planted about 5 inches deep. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointy side up. If you can’t figure out the top from the bottom, don’t worry. In most cases, the flower will still find its way topside.
#3: Cover with Soil
Cover your bulbs with the soil you dug out previously. Lightly compress the soil but do not pack it down. You want to leave the soil loose around the bulb so that the shoots can easily rise up through the ground. Water to stimulate root growth.
Hyacinth bulbs emerging in spring.
If we have a particularly dry winter, you may need to water your bulbs periodically. If you’re not sure, use a moisture meter, or stick your index finger down into the soil to at least the second knuckle to feel for moisture. If necessary, gently water until moist. Do not let the area become soggy.
Now you can sit back and look forward to seeing their cheerful blooms appear with the first signs of spring.
REFRIGERATING YOUR BULBS
If you want to artificially chill your bulbs, make sure you place them in a mesh bag or breathable container. If they are unable to breathe, or if they are touching each other while in storage, they will rot.
One option is to pack your bulbs in a cardboard box. Layer the bulbs in the box with newspaper in between each layer.
Do not wash the bulbs as this can add excess water to the bulb and also cause them to rot.
Place your bulbs in a refrigerator for 6 to 10 weeks. Be careful not to store fruit, especially apples, or any vegetables near them. Ripening produce gives off ethylene gas, which can damage and or kill the flower inside the bulb.
Once bulbs are chilled plant them as soon as possible, as they will not keep beyond their planting season.
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