Typically, I write to you about bulbs during the fall to remind you to plant the ones that are coming up right now – things like tulips, crocus, daffodils and irises. It’s always heartbreaking when we get people in the nursery around this time of year looking for tulip bulbs and we have to break it to them that they missed getting them into the ground in time.
But getting your spring-blooming bulbs into the ground in time is only half the story. You also need to know how to maintain these plants once they’ve poked their pretty blossoms out of the soil.
Here are some tips:
- You need to keep the soil moist but well drained. You don’t want to allow the bulb to dry out during this time as it will affect how long the blooms will last.
- Once they are done blooming, it’s important NOT to cut back the unsightly foliage, because this is how the bulb stores energy in order to bloom next year. Instead, you can fold the foliage over and secure it with a rubber band to hide it.
- Another way to make areas with spent bulbs look more attractive is to plant other perennials to hide the foliage. I love using pansies and violas, since they look beautiful paired with bulb flowers and both can take our current cold nights.
It’s also good to remember that spring bulbs aren’t the only ones around. There are summer blooming bulbs, like begonias, caladium, dahlias, gladiola, elephant ears and more. So you can still plant some spectacular looking bulbs this year, but understand the planting process will be a little different than for spring bulbs.
Right now, summer bulbs can be purchased, but other than edibles like onion, scallions and garlic, these summer-blooming bulbs are tropical. Unlike spring bulbs – which not only like, but need cold weather – these summer bulbs can’t take the cold. That means they shouldn’t be planted outside until the threat of frost is over – which, as we know, can be well into spring in Flagstaff.
We suggest planting in containers inside and moving them out towards the end of May. The general rule of thumb is, if it’s time for you tomatoes to go outside, it’s time to plant your summer bulbs.
And, unlike your spring bulbs, chances are you’ll need to plant new bulbs every spring for summer blooms.
Whether you are enjoying your bulbs in the spring or summer, they are a beautiful addition to any garden.