Care of Spring Flowering Bulbs
In the fall, garden center shelves are bursting with a hardy supply of spring flowering bulbs. These brightly colored beauties are always a pleasant welcome in the later winter or spring. Fall is the time to plant new bulbs and care for established plantings.
Spring flowering bulbs are in the midst of one of their greatest periods of growth in the autumn and winter. Under the ground, out of sight, the bulbs are developing a strong fibrous network of roots to support the plants. It is these roots that are so important for good spring flowering and a long life in the garden.
Bulbs have a very short growth period above ground. For the most part, they come up in late winter with some foliage, flower, and then die back within a few weeks. It is for this reason that the bulbs should have good care while the green growth is visible.
Planting new bulbs can occur any time through mid to late-November. The earlier planting is better because of a longer period of root development. Fertilizing at the time of planting is good. The nutrients can be worked into the soil to feed the developing roots. As a rule of thumb, a small planting of 5 to 10 bulbs should receive about a rounded teaspoon of a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. A larger planting, around 100 square feet of bed, would require about two pounds of fertilizer.
Established bulbs also benefit from an application of fertilizer as new growth emerges in late winter. The same rates would apply as in planting. Bulbs that have been fertilized for a number of years with a balanced type fertilizer such as 10-10-10 do not necessarily need the additional phosphorus and potassium. If that is the case, then use about one rounded teaspoon of the organic fertilizer blood meal.
Fall is also a good time to divide or move existing bulbs. The clump can be lifted, sorted by size and replanted. Sorting by size allows the smaller bulbs to compete better with larger ones. Flower size will also be about the same for a more uniform look. In many cases very small bulbs are best discarded as they may never reach flowering size.
Even though bulbs are tucked deep in the soil, providing some tender loving care in the fall will bring more color to your garden come spring.