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Flowering Bulbs
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement


Flowering bulbs provides another dimension to gardening by adding beauty and interest. Bulb selection can be a very creative task because there are a large number of different types of bulbs, offering variations in forms, fragrances, and colors. Generally, the term "Bulbs" refer to corms, tubers, tuberous roots, rhizomes and true bulbs. The process of planting bulbs is fairly easy if you follow the correct steps.

Generally, fall is the season for planting bulbs. However, certain bulbs should be planted in the spring. Lilies are an exception to this rule because they can be planted in either fall or spring. It is also important to know the difference between hardy bulbs and tender bulbs. Hardy bulbs will survive the winter right in the ground to bloom again the following year. Tender bulbs will also flower year after year, but in cold climates they must be dug up and stored indoors over the winter, then replanted the following spring.
Bulb selection is an important step. You want to be sure to select quality bulbs. Look for plump, firm bulbs. Also, pay attention to size. Generally, small bulbs are best for naturalizing and large ones work well if you are looking for a formal design where the flower stands out.
Planting Techniques:

• When selecting a site for planting, consider light, temperature, soil texture, and function. Most bulbs require full sun exposure.

• Plant bulbs with the pointed side up. Most bulbs should be planted at a depth equal to three times their diameter.

• Consider improving the soil with compost, superphosphate, or even good loam.

• Raise wet beds with a sand underlay for drainage. You want your bulbs to be moist, but not completely saturated. Sogginess leads to fungus growth. Tulips are particularly sensitive to botrytis fungus or grey mold.

• If you are planting individual bulbs, you can use a hand trowel or bulb planter.

• If you are planting many bulbs, dig one big trench or hole and place the bulbs in the bottom. Keep in mind, bulbs look better planted in clusters or "bouquets" instead of skinny rows.

• Carefully consider the design style you want to achieve, natural or formal. Naturalizing, also known as perennials, refers to a planting technique that uses bulbs that come back year after year. Some refer to such bulbs as repeaters. In formal designs it is unlikely that you will be using bulbs that come back year after year.

• Keep an eye out for chipmunks, voles, mice, deer, woodchucks, squirrels, and other animals that will destroy newly planted bulbs. Consider using traps and scare tactics. Also try using bulb fertilizer or super phosphate instead of bone meal.

Maintenance:

• To protect against squirrels that have a habit of digging up your bulbs, it is a good idea to cover them after planting. Use some chicken wire and disguise it with an extra inch of compost.

• Certain bulbs will fall victim to becoming a “blind Bulb.” This means that the bulb fails to produce a flower. Daffodils commonly fall under this category. To avoid such circumstances, be sure to keep your bulbs well fed and watered.

• Avoid over watering. Wait until the compost has completely dried before re-watering your bulbs.

• In the winter, mulch bulbs 2 to 4 inches deep with organic material such as straw, pine bark, hay, or ground leaves.

• If you are leaving bulbs in place for bloom next year, do not cut the leaves after flowering until they start to wither. Healthy leaves will help produce food for plant growth. Wait until they are yellow before cutting them off.

• If your garden experiences severe weather, place bubble wrap over your bulbs and pots to avoid freezing them.

• Pick off any seed pots that form after flowering. This allows bulbs to concentrate on building up its reserves for the next years flowering. Seeds take stored food from the bulbs.

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