Right now is the perfect time for planting spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, fritillaries, allium, crocus and hyacinth. If deer are a problem in your home landscape, choose daffodils, allium and fritillaries.
Make sure when choosing a planting location to plan for the foliage dying back on its own. Foliage gathers energy for the bulb to regain its vigor for next year’s blooms. Cutting back the foliage early will lead to smaller and fewer blooms. Planting bulbs mixed in with perennials that leaf out later and have similarly shaped foliage camouflages the waning bulb. New perennial leaves shoot up out of the ground as the bulb foliage yellows and dies back. Daffodils, tulips, allium and fritillaries combine well with other lance-shaped foliage plants such as sedges, lilyturf, montbretia and daylilies.
Especially attractive in bunches snuggled up alongside a rock or other landscape focal point, like a fence post, arbor, birdbath, statuary or at the base of a tree, bulbs always look better and more natural planted in large clusters of uneven numbers. Flowering groundcovers such as dead nettle, sweet woodruff, barrenwort, moss phlox, and plumbago make a perfect pairing with bulbs as well. Bulb flowers and foliage push up through the groundcover, and then graciously go dormant under a green leafy blanket.
Be sure to locate your bulbs in well-draining soil that is high in fluffy organic matter, since soil that holds on to water and stays wet for a long time is deadly for most bulbs. The depth at which the bulb is planted is critical to the success of the planting as well; be sure to read the requirements for the type of bulb you have selected. Bulbs planted too deeply or lacking sufficient hours of direct sunlight will not bloom. Early fall is also a great time to transplant underperforming bulbs to sunnier site conditions.
Taking the time to prepare the soil before planting bulbs is well worth the effort. It is far easier to amend soil that has no plants to work around. When planting large areas of bulbs, it is best to dig out trenches or large irregularly shaped holes to mimic naturalistic drifts, amend the planting areas prior to arranging the bulbs in the planting area, and then cover them with soil. If the soil is heavy clay, then be sure to assess the topography of the site and choose a crested area that will shed water rather than a depression that will collect it. Placing the bulb closer to the surface of the soil will help to avoid it becoming waterlogged in heavy soils.
Over time, some bulb populations will decline and may need replenishing. On the other hand, daffodils will expand in populations over time if the site suits them well. For more information on this topic, refer to the Rutgers Fact Sheet 1220 titled Spring Flowering Bulbs, https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/fs1220/ .
For more information about home garden questions, visit www.njaes.rutgers.edu/garden/, or contact Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Sussex County by phone at 973-948-3040.
Lisa Chiariello is the Master Gardener coordinator for Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Sussex County. She can be reached at 973-948-3040 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.