15 Flower Bulb Growing Tips (to Avoid Bulb Problems)

Avoid Common Bulb Problems Now

Golden Daffodil

A closer look at a daffodil.

Annette McCarthy

We adore spring bulbs (which you plant in the fall!). The flowers return year after year, delighting us with color after a long winter. However, we know that some people wonder why all of their bulbs did not come up. Here are 15 tips on growing bulbs—and avoiding bulb problems later.

15 Flower Bulb Growing Tips

  1. Timing is key! Get your bulbs in the ground in September, October, or early November—before the last hard frost.

  2. Buy the right varieties for your area’s USDA Climate Zone.

  3. Use top-quality bulbs. Check bulbs before buying or planting: Make sure they’re firm and free of corky lesions, mold, and soft spots. Otherwise, your bulb may have a viral disease before you even get home!

  4. Don’t plant your bulbs where you always see standing water in early spring. They like well-drained sites.

  5. Select a site that receives full sun or at least a half day of sun. Midday and afternoon shade are needed in hot climates.

  6. Turn the soil over to a depth of about eight to ten inches. Add enough compost to make it loose and crumbly.

  7. If you have a big problem with squirrels digging up bulbs, consider laying a wide wire mesh, such as chicken wire, directly on top of the bed, extending the surface about 3 feet from the plantings, then stake it down.

  8. Plant bulbs to their recommended depths: For daffodils, fritillarias, hyacinths, and tulips, plant six to eight inches deep; for crocuses, snowdrops, Spanish bluebells, and other small bulbs, plant three to four inches deep. 

  9. Cover bulbs properly with soil so critters aren’t attracted to the planting site. Some gardeners claim that planting a bit deeper makes it harder for digging pests to find tulip bulbs. Also, always remove all debris such as dried bulb casings to avoid pests.

  10. Water after planting to jump-start root growth.

  11. Sprinkle egg shells or diatomaceous earth powder around your bulbs to keep slugs and snails away.

  12. Add a balanced natural organic fertilizer in the spring when the bulbs first appear and again after they have bloomed. We don’t think it’s necessary to add fertilizer to the bulbs as you plant them (though some gardeners do), but you need to help them recharge their food banks after they have bloomed.

  13. If you spot aphids or other small bugs on the leaves, try knocking them off with a stream of water from the hose. If the problem persists, spray all sides of the leaves with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap early in the morning. 

  14. Keep bulbs mulched to conserve soil moisture and maintain a cool soil temperature. Wait until the ground is cold or frozen. Piling on mulch too soon provides nesting areas for pests to overwinter.

  15. Cut off the spent flower heads after your bulbs have bloomed, but don’t cut off the foliage. The leaves help provide nutrients to what will become the next season’s bulbs.

Reader Comments

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after the bulbs have bloomed

After my bed of tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils is done blooming, I leave the foliage, as advised - but it looks so sad. What can I plant over the bulbs, preferably perennial, so that the garden doesn't look so neglected?

covering bulb foliage after bloom

That’s a great question. The foliage of most bulbs (especially daffodils) must remain to renew the bulb. But you could try adding a leafy perennial or fast- growing annual to the area.

I like to plant daffodils in the same space with day lilies. As the daffodil foliage matures, the day-lily foliage grows up to fill in the space.

Many people like to add small hostas in front of daffodils or other spring bulbs; the timing works out perfectly.

Another idea is to plant annual seedlings, such as impatiens, zinnias, marigolds or snapdragons. Or, how about fast-growing Storm petunias to cover large beds of bulbs. 

One reader recommends planting poppies with tulips. However, some people treat tulip bulbs as annuals. Instead of producing offsets at the sides of the mother bulb, the mother bulb flowers one season and produces a daughter bulb plus some other smaller bulbs. The old bulb is gone now and the smaller bulbs do not truly amount to much in the garden setting. 

Some folks just dig them up when done and replant the bulbs in the fall. 

bulbs

I gave my parents for Easter some daffodils. What should they do with the bulbs until the fall?

storing bulbs

Just store the bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place so that the bulbs don’t freeze, sprout, or rot. A utility closet is often a good place. Some people put them in box and cover with soil. Then, plant in the fall!

planting multiple daffodils

Does every daffodil bulb have to have its own hole? Last fall, I dug a big round hole and placed the daffodil bulbs at least 3 inches apart, but they aren't blooming and foliage is sparse. Is that my fault or were they not good bulbs?

Planting Daffodils

As long as you gave them each their own “personal bubble” of 3–6 inches, they shouldn’t have been too crowded. Our guess is that it’s some other factor that’s causing your daffodil woes. Perhaps they were planted too deep or in a wet area? Check out our Daffodils Growing Guide to see if you can diagnose your problem.

Dafodils

I have had daffodils in the same place for about 10 years. Should I dig them up and separate them or just leave them?

Dividing Daffodils

We would just divide daffodils if they’re not blooming well. If they’re not blooming well, they’re getting too crowded together. Then dig and divide, or replant in a sunnier location. After replanting, let the foliage die back on its own, and they should bloom for you next spring.

Daffodil planting time

I bought a small pot of daffodil flowers that are blooming. I'd like to plant them in my garden area after they finish blooming. We're are in New Mexico, about 7,000 feet elevation, semi-arid, alkaline soil, last spring frost is late May. When to put them out in the ground? Thanks.

Daffodil Planting

Plant them when the ground is no longer frozen. You may want to give them a layer of mulch as well, so that they don’t dry out too much during the summer. Don’t expect them to bloom again this year, as they’ll likely spend their energy putting down roots instead. 

Daffodils and Hyacinths

How long should I wait after the daffodils and hyacinths are down flowering before I can cut back the leaves?

When to cut back foliage

Leave the bulb foliage alone until it dies back (dries out and becomes almost papery). You can cut off the flowers once they have faded.

Daffodil

I plant daffodils about 18 years ago no flowers , never no even one ! Now after all those years I got this huge surprise with beautiful strong yellow flowers!!!!! I am in Michigan, we had a lot of rain. But 18 years is a long time, can somebody tell me what happened. I would like very much to know . Thanks

Daffodils

What a lovely surprise!  These daffodils are not from the bulbs you planted 18 year ago. Are these wild daffodils? These daffodils spread by seed on their own. When it is wet, the seeds will stick to the feet of animals and can get spread over great distances. Last week, we were in a forest and surprised by some groves of daffodils!

daffodils

My daffodils came back very pale. How do I get them back to their original gorgeous deep yellow

pale daffs

You have stumped us! We do not have an answer or explanation for this, nor advice, except to suggest that you click here on your state and when the state page comes up, contact your local cooperative extension and ask someone there: http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services

 

 

Is it good to have some

Is it good to have some compost mixed in soil while planting bulbs? I live in North Georgia. Is it too late to plant bulbs here?

You're fine. Late October is

You're fine. Late October is when folks start planting bulbs in Georgia. You can often plant as late as December but the later you wait, the harder it is for the bulbs to establish themselves before winter.

I Keep planting sunflower

I Keep planting sunflower seeds and they never come up. What am I doing wrong.

Sunflowers grow best in

Sunflowers grow best in locations with full sun; they prefer long, hot summers to flower well. Though they're not too fussy, sunflowers thrive in slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline (pH 6.0 to 7.5). If possible, put seeds in a spot that is sheltered from strong winds, perhaps along a fence or near a building. A light application of fertilizer mixed in at planting time will encourage strong root growth.

I live here in Chicago is it

I live here in Chicago is it too late to plant bulbs for this summer? I planted some canna lilies I got about 2 weeks ago and they are coming up but I wanted to plant more in my girlfriend's yard. Would it be too late?

You can plant more summer

You can plant more summer bulbs, but do it quickly.

I want to split my hosta and

I want to split my hosta and replant them in different areas, can I do that now (May 12) or do I need to wait until the fall?

Should I try to cover my

Should I try to cover my Daffodils that have just bloomed this past week? We live in central Texas and will probably have a freeze tonight.

Daffodil bulbs can take

Daffodil bulbs can take temperatures up to low 20s and bounce back-- though prolonged freezing temperatures may cause some damage to flowers and foliage. If flowers are in full bloom, the flowers may wilt as the flower stalk thaws. Protection such as garden fabric is a good idea.

I have 3 Amaryllis in

I have 3 Amaryllis in containers that have about 6 inches of foliage should I cut them back or will they go ahead and bloom

Only remove the leaves if

Only remove the leaves if they turn brown. Your amaryllis will bloom when the bulbs are ready.

Help they are calling for

Help they are calling for snow and my hyaciths are about 2inchs up out of the ground what should i do!! they are calling for 6-10inchs should i cover them or leave them be!!

Hyacinths are very hardy.

Hyacinths are very hardy. They are not going to die and the snow acts like a cozy blanket around your hyacinths.

I planted daffodil bulbs in

I planted daffodil bulbs in November. They started coming up in Feb. when we had a warm spell. The beginning of March we had frost which hurt all the blooms. Should I deadhead them or leave them alone?

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