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Flowers: BULBS

Flowering Bulbs, Planting, and other Facts

by Ed Lee

Tulips, Daffodils and other Bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs must be planted in the fall because they require a sustained "dormant" period of cold temperatures to stimulate root development. It is recommended that bulbs be in the ground six weeks ahead of the first hard frost, normally mid to late November. As a general rule, in Tulsa, they should be planted in mid-September to mid-October. (TULSA FREEZE Information - NOAA.gov).

Bulbs should be planted as soon as possible after bringing them home. If you must store them, keep them dry and cool between 50° and 60° (F). For long storage periods, a refrigerator vegetable compartment can be used, but be sure to keep them away from ripening fruit. The ethylene gas emitted by fruit's ripening process can destroy bulbs.

In addition to tulips and daffodils, you'll also want to plant other exotic Dutch bulbs, such as spring-flowering scilla, puschkinia, muscari, fritillaria, allium, camassia, and eremurus.

The Tulsa climate will affect which bulbs you choose to plant. Not all bulbs have the same cold requirements. Ask your bulb supplier to recommend the flower bulbs that do well here. The USDA publishes a climate zone map covering the entire U.S. This can be found reproduced in many gardening books and magazines.

Garden Design Using Bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs offer a wide variety of colors, heights and flowering periods.

Much of the information you need to plan your garden is written on the package, or available from your bulb supplier. These include:

  • color,
  • plant height,
  • flowering time,
  • when to plant, and
  • how deep to plant
Some design tips for colorful and creative plantings include:
  • Plant low-growing bulbs, such as grape hyacinths, in front of taller flowers, such as tulips,
  • Always plant bulbs in groups, either in small clusters or large beds, a single flower standing alone is not very showy,
  • Plant scattered clusters of early-flowering bulbs, such as crocus, throughout your lawn to achieve a "natural" look,
  • Plant clusters of daffodils in areas that are not mowed often. These will add a color in the spring, and, if allowed to wilt, will return year after year.

How to Plant

  1. Choose the site. Most spring-flowering Dutch bulbs will thrive in either full or partial sun, but do just fine in almost any location that offers good drainage. Bulbs will rot in standing water so avoid areas prone to flooding, such as the bottom of hills or under drainpipes.
  2. Loosen the soil with a rake to aerate it and remove any weeds and small stones. Mix in a bit of peat moss to improve soil drainage.
  3. Dig either a trench for a bed planting, or individual holes for individual bulbs or small cluster of bulbs. To determine how deep to plant and spacing see Bulb Planting Guidelines. In general, consider the caliber or size of the bulb, large bulbs (2 inches or more) are usually planted about 8 inches deep; smaller-size bulbs (1 inch) are planted 5 inches deep. Space large bulbs 3-10 inches apart and small bulbs 1-2 inches apart.
  4. Place, do not push, the bulbs firmly in the soil with the pointed side up. (If you're not sure which end is right-side-up, don't worry. Upside-down bulbs usually come up anyway!)
  5. Cover the bulbs with soil and water generously. Add 2-3 inches of mulch, pine bark is fine, on top of the garden bed. This will provide added protection from the cold and keeps the soil from drying out.