In the spring, gardeners are more than ready for a big show, and the spring-flowering bulbs are an important part of that show. But bulbs are busy year round and have a special need during each season of the year.

The fall is the proper time to plant your bulbs to get them off to the right start. During the winter, bulbs are developing a good root system and chilling in preparation for the spring bloom.

After spring bloom, you need to pinch the heads off faded flowers before they set seed. This process is called deadheading. Flowers that have set seed are sending a message that causes the bulb to focus its energy on seed production rather than flower production. Let the leaves die naturally. Leaving them in the ground allows them to naturalize so they will come back on their own. Many types will, however, need to be divided every two to three years to prevent overcrowding.

Daffodils will naturalize in our environment better than tulips, which will probably need to be replaced annually. Planting spring-flowering bulbs in groups or creating the natural look by scattering them in large areas will present a better show than will isolated specimens.

Susan Carlile, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service



Ideally, you should plant bulbs as soon as you purchase them. In East Texas make sure that you have purchased bulbs that are suitable for this climate. Most tulips are not perennial producers. Make sure the bulbs are firm and not mushy. Just as a reminder the pointed end goes up.

Spring flowering bulbs may be planted in late summer or early fall. However, you can plant them as long as the ground can be worked. These bulbs can be planted in shady areas as they will come up and bloom before the leaves are on the trees.

If your bulbs do not come up the first season after planting, you may have planted bulbs that are not for your zone or may have rotted from the soil being too wet. In East Texas, being planted too shallow makes them more vulnerable to animals. The depth should be 2 to 2 ½ times the size of the bulb.

Another reason for bulbs not appearing could be that rodents ate them. Many bulbs attract moles, rats, mice and squirrels. You really cannot keep them away or exterminate them as more animals will move in replenishing those you previously removed by extermination. An alternative to this would be planting bulbs that are non-palatable, such as daffodils or plant bulbs in a container made of galvanized material. Bulb cages can be purchased from garden catalogs or you can make your own.

After your bulbs have finished blooming never remove the leaves. Underground the bulb is still manufacturing food for the following year. Some people braid or knot up the foliage. It may look neater but it is not a help to the plant. You can cut back the foliage only as it turns yellow and can be pulled out easily from the bulb. A good idea is to plant the bulbs in beds with other perennials or flowers that will grow up and obscure the dying foliage.

Handled correctly, your bulbs are sure to produce flowers for many seasons to come.

Monette Colman, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Perennials