Bulbs Landscape design

Bulb Planning Starts Early

Flowerbed with clumps of tulips and daffodils

By Larry Hodgson

Spring has just barely sprung and I’m already writing about planting fall bulbs: tulips, narcissus, crocuses, squills, grape hyacinths, etc.? Isn’t it a bit early?

Not really, because as beautiful as they are when they are in bloom, they are absolutely invisible when they go dormant. And they’re dormant most of the year. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The problem therefore is that, when it’s time to plant more bulbs (September to November in the Northern Hemisphere), you can’t see where the established ones are. I mean, you know they’re there, hiding out underground as bulbs or tubers, but will you remember precisely where? If you’re like me, you’ve often started to dig a planting hole for fresh bulbs only to discover you’ve just chopped through a bulb or two, because you’re digging in a spot where older ones were already established. 

Sketch of bulb plantings in a back yard.
A rough sketch of where the bulbs are is all you really need to know where to add more!

That’s why it’s wise to draw a bit of a sketch of your property, noting where the bulbs are while they’re still visible… and also where you have open spaces where you’ll want to plant more. I call the sketch a “bulb locator.”

Then, when fall comes and your bulb orders arrive (I don’t know about you, but I order my bulbs on-line so I can be sure I’ll get the ones I want), you can pull out your bulb locator and home in on the spots that desperately need more spring color! 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

5 comments on “Bulb Planning Starts Early

  1. As you probably know, if you plant Siberian squill, they will take over. I personally think they should be classified as invasive and not sold at all. Pretty little invaders.

    • I love them. Native bees go wild over them, as well as over other small bulbs.

      • Luiza Monteiro

        I also love them, but after a few mild winters in Toronto (z 6b/7a), they are bent on world domination (I recently found a few dozen bulblets in 3″ patches in my garden beds, as dense as any lawn grass!). I deadheaded them last year; a huge task and I think not worth doing every year (I am a wannabe laidback gardener). They are now listed as a Category 2 invasive in Ontario. This year I’ve started pulling up as many as I can, and deadheading the others. I am also deadheading chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow); they are even harder to pull out than Siberian squill if they spread where they are not wanted because they go even deeper than scilla. Puschkinia are the best-behaved, but also starting to spread, so am deadheading those too.

  2. Siberian squill are only invasive for southrons. For me, they die. Laidback gardener- do you have any advice for those of us who didn’t get our daffodils in, then planted them in pots and they won’t break bud? Do I toss them? I dug up one bud, and it had roots but no leaves. I don’t expect flowers, but if they put up leaves they would bloom in future years. They shipped late due to COVID, and then I didn’t have time to beat the frosts.

    • I don’t know how cold your climate is, but daffodils don’t do well in pots for me in zone 4. They freeze and rot. In the ground, they’re fine. If they don’t bloom the first year, or bloom later than they normally should, they “find their niche” and bloom correctly from then on.

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: