Bulbs Landscape design

Bulb Planning Starts Early

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! 

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

5 comments on “Bulb Planning Starts Early

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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