Spring bulbs are one of the most glorious sights in your garden, not just because they’re delicate and pretty, but also because they signal the end of winter and the start of a bustling spring. However, in order to enjoy that pretty spring view, you need to plan for bulbs and plant them now, in the fall.
Some homeowners give up on bulbs because they don’t last long, or because they didn’t come up at all one year. There are ways to avoid bulb failures and get blooms for longer. We’ll discuss new planting techniques that help, and ways to spice up your bulb beds so they aren’t empty all winter or summer. Here’s how to get a bigger impact from your spring bulbs.
Bulb Lasagna and Over Planting
The latest technique in spring bulb planting is called bulb lasagna. As bulbs can’t be too close to one another, you are often left with holes between the bulbs. Layering them like lasagna helps fill the holes and make a fuller bed.
Lasagna planting is often done in three layers. On the bottom place the bulbs that need to be planted the deepest, so you’re sure they’ll break the surface in spring. Plant the shallowest bulbs on the top. Try to use several varieties with different, but overlapping, bloom periods so that you get flowers for longer.
If you want to plant bulbs with the same bloom period or want to extend the seasonality of the bed even more, try overplanting. A shallow ground cover plant can be put on top of bulbs without disturbing them. The ground cover adds interest for months, and your bulbs will have no problem pushing through and adding their own blooms.
Planning for Bulbs
Once you’ve decided on your planting methods, you need to choose where your bulbs will go. Keep in mind that bulb lasagna plantings will require several inches of diggable soil. For three layers you’ll need 14 inches and for two layers you’ll need at least ten inches. If you have less room or more compact soil, you have to do a single layer of planting, but you can still and ground cover.
Here are some places you can add spring bulbs:
- Dedicated beds: Bulb fanatics often create dedicated bulb beds in prominent places on the property. We suggest placing these behind or in front of stable perennial beds so that they can take over when the spring bulbs are done. Or, consider overplanting to maintain visual interest all year.
- Sprays in mixed beds: Add a dozen bulbs into a bed that already has a healthy mix of annual plants and spots for perennials. Remember, bulbs do best together, so we suggest adding several clusters instead of planting individual bulbs several inches from another.
- Window boxes: Bring spring right up close to you with a window box full of bulbs. Window boxes will be too shallow for layered or lasagna plantings, so we suggest you combine the bulbs with annuals.
- Pots: Garden pots are a wise choice for bulbs because they can be moved when the bulbs have died back. That way you don’t need to look at an empty bed all year just to enjoy the heralds of spring.
Bulb Varieties and Timing
With planting style and location determined, the last thing to do is choose your bulbs. For best results, you should pick at least one early spring, one mid-spring and one late spring bulb. You can get a consistent look if you like. For example, there are early, mid and late spring tulips, albeit of different varieties.
- Tulips: The earliest tulips are often single tulips.
- Snowdrops: Expect tiny, delicate white blossoms.
- Crocus: The purple flowers technically have corms, not bulbs, but they work the same.
- Mini daffodils: All early spring bulbs are small, and mini daffodils are no exception.
- Iris reticulata: The earliest iris, it’s smaller than later versions.
- Daffodils: The full-sized version needs a bit longer to come up, but they are just as gorgeous.
- Tulips: Mid-season tulips may be singles or doubles. Parrot varieties are mid-season and add lots of texture.
- Hyacinths: These tall clusters will provide a lovely fragrance to your garden.
- Fritillaria: Choose these flowers if you’re looking to stand out. While rare in landscaping they are easy to care for.
- Tulips: The longest, tallest tulips are last. Popular cut varieties are late spring bloomers, such as Queen of the Night.
- Dutch Iris: As with other varieties, you can get a miniature version of this spring staple that blooms earlier.
- English Bluebells: A staple of English style gardens in a frilly blue.
- Lilies: Plant spring lilies near summer-blooming lilies to ease the transition to summer.
Need some help starting your bulbs this fall? The High Prairie Outdoors is happy to help you design a truly stunning bulb bed, and help you maintain it. Get started with us today.