Bulbs Planting

Plant Tulips, Even if it Snows!

A few years ago, a tabloid journalist made headlines with the story of a landscaper who had rolled out turf on a beautiful carpet of snow. Yes, it had snowed the day before. The journalist in question cried out scandal. For us horticulturists, that was absolutely normal and we wondered what the problem was.

Because there are several of us who, because of lack of time in the fall, stretch the bulb planting season into the first snowfalls. And experience proves us right. Yes, you can continue planting, even when it snows and even when the ground is frozen. And in the spring, it’s as if nothing had happened. Everything grows as usual.

In Dormancy… they Sleep!

The explanation is simple. Once a plant is dormant, it ceases to grow and enters a kind of sleep where it hardly realizes what’s going on. Scorching cold, several feet of snow, frozen ground… the plant will behave as it normally would.

Plant in the Dark

And that brings me to planting fall bulbs. If you’re like me, you’re constantly charmed by beautiful photos of blooming spring bulbs and… you buy a little more than you have time to plant. So we find ourselves planting at the last minute, sometimes in the middle of the night, by the light of a headlamp, because there is snow announced for the next day.

Plant in Frozen Ground

I can also tell you about the time when I was working on the creation of a large garden in northern Lac-Saint-Jean. That year, we planted thousands of bulbs late in November. The ground was frozen solid 3 inches (10 cm) deep. Impossible to plant with a small trowel. The solution: a drill! Equipped with an ice auger, our drill dug thousands of holes 5 inches (15 cm) deep, into which we dropped the tulips. They were then covered with frosted soil. The work was done quickly and well!

The following spring, everything was splendid! All the tulips survived.

Plant Under Snow

Tulips growing under the snow. Photo: pixabay.com.

Several years later, I really, completely forgot to plant my tulips in the fall. One morning I woke up and 5 inches (15 cm) of snow had fallen. Oh no! My tulips, I cried. I pulled out the shovel, cleared the snow, cut out a layer of crusted soil and dumped the bulbs into this more than inadequate hole. I quickly replaced the patch of soil, including lumps of ice, and buried my masterpiece under a few shovelfuls of dirty snow. The following spring, once again, the show was spectacular!

Yes, I know, it’s much easier and faster to plant bulbs in beautiful loose soil. But don’t let cold, frost and even snow get you down! Plant bulbs… even if it snows!

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

4 comments on “Plant Tulips, Even if it Snows!

  1. Well, it does not get ‘that’ cold here, and does not snow, . . . which is incidentally why some bulbs do not naturalize.

  2. This year my region is having very much the opposite problem—it’s supposed to be cold by now, but it sure isn’t! Here’s hoping all the bulbs I’m planting can handle these weird conditions

  3. David O'Gorman

    wow, good to know! I might Carpe Diem and try some new bulbs this year…

  4. Ladd Johnson

    I find myself often in the same situation – “better late than never”!

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