Garden Guide

Spring-flowering bulbs
Nov. 13, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

The gardening season is winding down. Leaves are changing to their showy fall colors and falling from trees. Along with a beautiful color display, fall brings with it a great planting time for bulbs. November is the perfect time to plant spring-flowering bulbs in Lee County.   

Tulips are perhaps the quintessential spring-flowering bulb. There are many flower variations of the tulip including Single, Cottage, Darwin, Parrot and Double. Unfortunately, tulips often do not perennialize well in North Carolina; subsequently many gardeners treat them as annuals. Research at N.C. State University has found that the major reasons for “annual” tulips are poor site selection and preparation. The selection of cultivars that are well-adapted to N.C. along with proper site selection and preparation will increase the chances of tulips reblooming.

Species tulips are more reliably perennial; however, they are often small in stature. Consider placing these delicate beauties near walkways or naturalize them. Naturalizing bulbs is easy to do: grab a handful of bulbs and throw them in the area you want to plant. Wherever a bulb lands is where it gets planted — this leads to a random, natural look.   

Other popular spring bulbs are daffodils and hyacinths. Daffodils are quite hardy in N.C. and the striking flower display lends itself well to a naturalized look. There are quite a few variations in size of the daffodil flower. For the most part, daffodils are yellow, white or cream. Hyacinths are a showy scented flower that does not reliably rebloom in this state.

Other specialty bulbs can be planted now, too. These include ornamental onions, snowdrops, fritillaria and scillas. Some of these specialty bulbs are not available locally and will need to be ordered from mail-order companies.   

When selecting bulbs for the fall, check for firmness. The larger the bulb, the more or larger the flowers will be. Do not be concerned that the outer skin is loose — this can actually aid in you inspection of the bulb. Keep bulbs cool before planting. If you decide to store them in the refrigerator, do not place with apples or other ripening fruit.

Amend your soil with organic matter if you have clay or sandy soils — good drainage is a must! You might also want to raise the beds slightly on clay soils. Soil pH should be in the 6-7 range for optimal performance.   

Large bulbs should be planted about 8 inches deep with 3-6 inches between bulbs. Small bulbs (less than 2 inches high) should be planted 5 inches deep with 1-2 inches between bulbs. You can interplant various types of bulbs for a splash of color or a more continuous bloom. Be sure to mulch the area to help conserve moisture.

Spring-flowering bulbs add a colorful surprise to spring. Bulbs should be planted in the ground during November to get the best performance. For more information on spring bulbs, reference HIL 611: Hints for Fall-Planted Spring and Early Summer Flowering Bulbs or contact our Center at (919) 775-5624.