Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs
What To Do When Your Bulbs Arrive
Bulbs for Fall Planting
Plant the spring flowering bulbs as soon as possible after you receive them. If you cannot plant them right away, remove the bag of bulbs from the shipping container and place them in a cool (room temperature or less) WELL VENTILATED area...bulbs love air flow!
Do not store them at temperatures below 39°F. Generally, all bulbs planted during the fall are hardy and do not need any special protection.
Bulbs Do's and Don'ts:
Always plant bulbs in borders or beds with good drainage. Plant tulips 6" deep, daffodils the height of 3 bulbs deep and Hyacinths should be planted 8-10" deep.
Do Not use strong commercial fertilizer or fresh manure when planting. If your flowerbeds need nutrients, a well balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or something similar may be recommended. Bulbs do NOT necessarily need fertilizer, but they need nutrients if the soil is depleted from previous plantings.
Always cut as little foliage possible when removing dead blooms from your bulbous plants. The leaves are essential for storing food for next year. If you are cutting fresh bulbs to use in an indoor vase, then you want to cut as much stem as possible (all the way down to the base of the stem) while leaving the foliage.
Do Not let a bulb flower go to seed. Cut flowers as they fade and remove any seed pods that form. Leave the foliage to keep the bulb strong.
Always let the foliage die back on its own in the garden before trimming it back or digging up the bulbs. Do not trim back healthy green foliage or the bulb will not perform well next year.
Never dry bulbs in the sun, always in the shade in a well-ventilated area.
Always store bulbs in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent mold or mildew. Do not store them in an air-tight container.
Do Not grow bulbs year after year in the same place. Sooner or later they may be attacked with a fungus disease called fire blight, which affects both foliage and flowers. Either change the soil or the location; follow the principle of crop rotation.
Always label the bulbs as you plant them. Use labels that are big enough so that 2-3" of the label is below soil level. Smaller bulbs can get heaved out of the soil during winter freezing and thawing. Labeling prevents you from accidentally digging up bulbs out of season. Do not rely on your memory alone. Labeling is much safer.
For Southern and western USDA Zones 7b–10
In what areas of the country should bulbs be prechilled?
In general, landscape professionals and gardeners in southern and western USDA Zones 7b–10 (excluding the Pacific Northwest and tidewater Virginia) should prechill bulbs before planting.
The 7b line is not a hard one. Some gardeners in Zone 7b prechill; others don’t. A lot depends on how cold the upcoming winter is. Since it’s impossible to predict how severe a given winter will be, we recommend prechilling, just to be safe.
We advise gardeners in Zones 9–11 in the Southeast—along the Gulf Coast and in Central and South Florida—to avoid planting spring-flowering bulbs entirely, prechilled or not.
What is meant by prechilling?
Most spring-flowering bulbs, including tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, need a prolonged period of cold temperatures to grow and bloom properly. In much of the United States, this cold period is provided naturally by a winter spent in the ground. Bulbs planted in the Deep South, the desert Southwest, and most of California (more or less from the San Francisco Bay area south) do not get the cold they need. To perform well, they must be placed in a refrigerator (not a freezer) for 6 to 12 weeks before planting.
Can I prechill bulbs myself?
Yes. We recommend that you use an extra refrigerator. Do not put bulbs in your main refrigerator as bulbs are not food and have not been handled as food must be handled. Please be aware that bulbs should not be stored in a refrigerator that also contains fruits or vegetables, which can give off ethylene gas. Ethylene is harmless to people but can injure flower bulbs.
When do I prechill and when do I plant?
We suggest you order your bulbs before the end of September for delivery around the middle to late October. When the bulbs arrive, place them in the refrigerator for 6–12 weeks, according to your geographic location. The warmer your area, the longer you should store them. The minimum cold storage for all warmer areas is 6 weeks. Your bulbs will be ready to plant between late November and early January. We do not recommend planting after the middle of January.