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Bulb Planting 101

by Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge | Bulb Planting 101
For the past 10 years, my favorite “down time” activity has been watching TV. Whenever I have some spare time to myself, settling into the couch with a pet on either side has been my preferred method of stress relief. But lately I’ve started to replace offset the amount of time I spend in front of the TV with time spent puttering from window to window taking care of houseplants. I don’t know if it’s all the light we get in this apartment (we are on the top corner of our building, so we get sun on three sides), but my plants have never been happier. And talking to them and checking up on them has become my favorite part of my morning. But I’ve started to get nervous about the impending cold and snow and what that will do for my new favorite pastime. So I started to look into winter plants and the idea of learning more about bulbs, so I’m ready for a colorful and plant-filled spring.

To get the 411 on bulb planting, I turned to my go-to girls, the team at Sprout Home Brooklyn. Owner Tassy de Give was kind enough to sit down with me and answer a few questions to get any novice bulb planter started on the path to planting. I was worried that bulbs were just for those lucky enough to have a yard of their own, but Tassy gave us some great advice about container bulb planting for those in smaller spaces and tiny city apartments. I hope this will come in handy if you want to keep your love of gardening going in the winter and are excited to plan for spring flowers. I’m just happy I still have an excuse to go check on little plants all winter. xo, grace

Click through for Tassy’s tips on bulb planting after the jump!

For bulb novices, when are the best times to plant in the fall and winter, and when is it too late?

Tassy: The timeframe to plant bulbs really depends on the location and environment you are planting in. You should aim to plant spring-flowering bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, etc.) about six to eight weeks before a hard frost. The temperature should be around 40-50 degrees at night. In New York, this is usually late September/early October. You can plant until the ground freezes.

What are your favorite bulbs to plant this time of year for next spring/summer? Are there any types that work well in small spaces for those of us in small city apartments?

Tassy: Some of my favorite spring-flowering bulbs include Galanthus (Snowdrops), Parrot Tulips, Erythronium (trout lily), Allium (including siculum and cernuum varieties), and Eucomis (pineapple lily). Daffodils are a spring staple, but it’s also exciting to see more color come up in the garden. For show-stoppers I Iike Allium “Globemaster” and Ornithogalum arabicum. In small areas, I would recommend doing a mass planting of just one or two types of bulbs to create a bigger impact.

What are bulb planting basics people should know? For example: What tools do we need, how low should bulbs be planted and is fertilizer required?

Tassy: The main thing to remember when planting bulbs is plant the pointy side up. Even if you get it wrong, most bulbs will still find their way. If wildlife is a problem in your area, then I would recommend putting chicken wire over the bulbs. After you cover the bulbs and chicken wire with soil, you can fertilize by adding bone meal, compost, or manure to the top of the planting. Watering thoroughly after planting and thereafter on a regular basis (more in the fall, less in the winter) will help to give the bulbs the moisture they need to grow. Never let the soil dry out completely. Mulching is also an important factor that helps to control temperature fluctuations and aids in holding in moisture. It also decomposes overtime, thus addinng more nutrients to the soil.

To plant bulbs, you can either use a basic trowel or get a bulb planter. Bulbs like to be planted at different depths and many garden tools will have measurements listed on them to assist while you’re digging. Most bulbs prefer to be planted anywhere from 5″ (small bulbs like snowdrops, muscari, etc.) to 8″ (large bulbs like tulips, allium, etc.).

Can you store and replant bulbs?

Tassy: Bulbs can be stored, but it’s a little tricky. They should be stored out of direct sunlight (basement or garage). You’ll also want to keep them cool and dry. You can replant the bulbs outside at their appropriate time of year (spring or fall), however many people say that planting in the ground, even if it’s not the optimal time, is your best bet.

Can you plant bulbs in containers vs. a bigger yard?

Tassy: Planting bulbs in containers is a great alternative if you don’t have a yard. If you use a container less than 24″ in diameter, you’ll need to monitor the temperature more closely than if the bulbs were planted in the ground. Ideal temperatures for container-planted bulbs are 32-50 degrees F for 12 weeks. If using a small container, you can place the pot in a garage or protected outdoor area until early spring. Keep the container moist (but not soggy) during this time.

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