Design tips for planting bulbs

Here it is mid November and I have finally gotten my bulbs in the ground.  Some might say it is best to plant bulbs in early fall, but I say, as long as the ground isn’t frozen and your bulbs aren’t moldy – go for it!  Bulbs are a fun addition to any landscape and can be one of the few flowering plants in late winter and early spring when we are so desperate to have a hint of life in our gardens.  Having them poke through frost to show off their bright and cheerful colors is a huge relief and a hint that spring will come soon.  However, bulbs can be costly and are often times installed in a way that can be downright ridiculous looking.
Here are some tips to get more bang for your buck:
  • ALWAYS Plant bulbs in masses – at a minimum 10-15 bulbs per planting area is needed to have enough impact to show color – a row of single bulbs is a waste unless it is in large masses and looks goofy.
  • Choose naturalizing bulbs that will spread over time such as anemone, narcissus, muscari, snowdrops, scilla, allium, and crocus to name a few.  These need minimal (if any) care once they are established.
  • Plant bulbs behind herbaceous perennials such as daylilies or hardy geraniums which come up after the bulbs are done blooming.  Bulb foliage should be left to go dormant after they flower in order to preserve as much nutrients as possible into the bulb or roots – many gardeners will cut down the spent foliage which is essentially removing the nutrients from the bulb to produce flowers for the next year.
  • For a great natural look, plant in drifts or under deciduous trees.  Crocus look amazing in spots in the lawn.  A good way to place them is to throw them into the air and plant them where they land!
  • Pay attention to bloom color and bloom time – plant bulbs that flower in succession and look good together.  My biggest mistake is I never remember what I planted from the previous years, and will sometimes need to move some bulbs around because they just don’t work together – like lavender and red tulips – yuck.

My favorite are blue muscaris -they work with everything and just about anywhere. This is Muscari latifolium 'Blue Grape' photo:

For more information check out these bulb companies:  Bulbs Direct, Color Blends, Dutch Gardens Flowers, Netherland Bulb Company
A great depth planting guide from Netherland Bulb Company: