Planning (and planting) ahead

Choose bulbs now, save time this fall

Summer is winding down, and the time for fall planting will soon be here. Year-round color starts with this important planting season – the secret to beautiful spring tulips and daffodils is a little elbow grease in the autumn. Our experts weigh in with tips on what to plant and how to plant it.

Many varieties

The perfect weather for planting bulbs is cool fall weather. Although we’re still enjoying (or enduring) the August humidity, it’s important to start researching now. “Some of the most popular bulbs planted in our area are tulips, hyacinth, crocus, allium, daffodils and iris. There are literally hundreds of varieties of these,” said Tina Gilbert, nursery manager at Frostop Nursery and Landscaping in Springfield.

Each plant and variety has slightly different requirements, so it’s best to get the lay of the land early. “There are a couple easy guidelines you can go by for most bulbs, although it does matter for different varieties,” Gilbert said. “Bulbs are a fun project to take on in the fall. People sometimes think that bulbs are for experienced gardeners or that they may be hard to do, and in all reality, they are pretty easy.”

Keep it cool

The first of these easy guidelines is: “For best rooting, plant once average night temperatures drop to the 40 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit range and before the ground freezes hard,” according to Christian Curless, horticulturalist for Connecticut-based, national flower bulb wholesaler Colorblends.

“October is a great time to plant most bulbs,” Gilbert added. “If you have to wear a sweatshirt or sweater, it is more than likely an ideal time to plant.”

When the temperature of your soil reaches about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, said Tim Schipper, also of Colorblends, it’s usually time to get bulb planting under way.

For placement and planting depth, it’s best to read up on the particular type you’d like to plant. Most varieties also include packaging with planting guidelines. “With most bulbs, planting them six inches deep is a safe way to go,” Gilbert said. “A general depth that works with most bulbs. (Plant bulbs) pointy side up.”

“The light exposure will depend on each variety, however sun to part sun is a good place for a majority of bulbs,” she advised.

Go wild

A colorful, low maintenance variety of bulb well suited to our region’s often-extreme conditions is the wild tulip. Although they’re called “wild” tulips, the bulbs you’ll see in garden shops weren’t exactly foraged from the forest. “Our wild tulips are grown by skilled tulip growers in Holland from selections made long ago by Dutch horticulturists,” Curless said.

“Many gardeners don’t realize that tulips are not native to Holland. The majority of tulips originated in…Central Asia, the Mideast and China. These regions, with bone dry summers and deep freeze winters, hardened nature’s original tulips into ultimate floral survivors… They actually respond well to neglect, thriving in sites where other flowers might fail.”

According to Curless, the best place to put wild tulip bulbs is “one with full sun, good soil drainage, no foraging animals and no sprinklers or soaker hoses over summer.” Wild tulips do well in USDA Growing Zones 3 – 7, so the Miami Valley, in Zone 6, is ideal.

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