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Planting Flower Bulbs - Storing Flower Bulbs

November 9th, 2011 Gardening

Bone Meal and Flower Bulbs

Bone meal was once considered the perfect fertilizer for flower bulbs. But like most everything else, we are learning more every day about flower bulbs. Bone meal is no longer recommended as a flower bulb fertilizer. The reason is that most of the bone meal available today has been overly processed and it generally does not have the nutrients that flower bulbs need. Also, many of today’s formulations of bone meal smell just like bones. This attracts rodents, raccoons and even canines to your flower bed and the digging begins. Bye, bye, flower bulbs!

Most spring flower bulbs do not need fertilizer when they are planted. If you are going to leave your bulbs in the ground indefinitely, you can apply aged cow manure to the soil or even a fertilizer that has been formulated for bulbs. Many gardeners will make these applications in the early spring and late autumn.

Growing Amaryllis Bulbs Indoors

Many people grow Amaryllis indoors because it is very easy. In fact, you can often find boxed or potted Amaryllis at home and garden centers that are ready to grow. All you have to do is add water. Another reason that Amaryllis is so popular for indoor growing is their blooms are cheery. They can bloom for up to two months and grow to be two feet tall.

When planting Amaryllis bulbs indoors, make sure you plant them in rich potting soil. You should place no more than one bulb in a pot. Make sure the pot is at least six inches in diameter. Since the plants grow tall and heavy, make sure you are planting the bulbs in pots that are sturdy. You should also make sure that the pot you are planting in has drainage holes. Place your Amaryllis in a location where it will get as much sunlight as you can give it and keep the soil moist. After your bulbs have bloomed apply a light fertilizer.

Keep Rodents from Snacking on Your Bulbs

Mice and other rodents can dig up and even eat your flower bulbs. Mice often will munch on tulips, gladioli and crocus. They tend to avoid colchicum, alliums and daffodils. Many people opt to sprinkle something over the ground to deter rodents. However, the problem with this is that it is time consuming. You will have to reapply the repellent after each rain.

A good way to keep rodents at bay is to use chicken wire. Some gardeners will make a cage of chicken wire and place it in the ground beneath and around their bulbs. This often times will keep rodents out. Your bulb roots will grow through the holes in the wire. Just don’t use wire that is smaller than one half inch. Other gardeners will simply lay a piece of chicken wire over a newly planted bulb bed. Placing block or firewood on it will secure it to the ground.

Non-Blooming Flower Bulbs

If you have gone to the trouble of planting flower bulbs, it can be disheartening if they do not bloom. If you planted your flower bulbs months ago and they did not come up at all, dig down to see if they are still there. It could be that rodents came and stole your flower bulbs.

Another reason your flower bulbs may not have come up at all is they may have rotted. If you planted your flower bulbs in an area that drains poorly they probably went to mush. If your bulbs have leaves but no flowers, it is probably because they were not stored properly prior to planting. They may have gotten too hot, too cold, or they may have been stored next to something that put off a gas that killed them such as ethylene gas or apples.

Many times people purchase bulbs at the last minute when they are on sale and they are dead. To find out if a bag of bulbs has died, cut one or two of them in half. If the inside of the bulb is dried up and brown, the bulbs are dead. Lastly, your bulbs may not have bloomed if you planted them in an area that is not friendly to them. For instance, bulbs need sufficient sunlight. If they did not receive this they may not have had enough food reserves to produce flowers.

Planting and Growing Elephant Ears

If you want to have a big leafy plant growing in your garden, plant Elephant Ears! (They aren’t called Elephant Ears for nothing!) These plants can grow to be up to five feet tall. They love to grow in areas that have high humidity, heat and lots of sunshine. They will also grow in the shade if they are in an area that has high heat and humidity. The only precaution you should keep in mind if you are planting Elephant Ears is that they are poisonous to pets and children.

The bulbs of Elephant Ears should be planted in the spring. They should be planted in a location that has well draining soil that is rich in organic matter. It should be noted that Elephant Ears can easily spread and invade the entire flower bed. Many gardeners will put border edging about six inches deep in the ground around their Elephant Ears to keep them from becoming invasive.

Elephant Ears will take off if you keep the soil moist. You can also apply a nitrogen fertilizer monthly, if you would like. Mulching around Elephant Ears is recommended since it helps the growing soil retain moisture and it also keeps the soil rich with organic matter.

Planting Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils bring hope and expectation of warmer things to come. When daffodils pop up and bloom you know that spring has officially arrived. The great thing about daffodils is they come back bigger and better year after year. With a little TLC and division a few daffodil bulbs will net a great harvest. Another great thing about daffodils is they are very easy to grow.

Daffodil bulbs should be planted in the fall in a location that gets a lot of sun. Most people will plant their daffodil bulbs in October. Depending on where you live, you should try to plant your daffodil bulbs about one month before the first expected freeze of the season. Daffodils should be planted to a depth of six to eight inches. Space your bulbs about four to six inches apart. Remember, daffodils quickly multiply and they hate overcrowding!

Once your daffodils have bloomed, do not cut them down. Let them die back naturally. This will allow them to store up the energy they need for next year’s blooming. Once the flower is dead, either cut it off or twist it off.

Planting Hyacinth Bulbs

Hyacinths are very popular in the United States. They are very fragrant and their colors include yellow, white, pink, blue and purple. Keep in mind that when you purchase Hyacinth bulbs, the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant!

Hyacinth bulbs should be planted in the fall about one month before the first expected freeze in your area. Bulbs should be planted to a depth of six to eight inches. Space your Hyacinth bulbs about six inches a part. Hyacinth bulbs look nice when planted in groups or cluster, but keep in mind that they do not like to be overcrowded. Hyacinths love sunlight but they can be planted in the shade. Most gardeners will stake their Hyacinths as they grow to keep them from being blown over during spring or summer storms.

Once your Hyacinths have bloomed, do not cut them down. Let them die back naturally. This will allow them to store up the energy they need for next year’s blooming. Once the flower is dead, either cut it off or twist it off.

Planting Lily Bulbs

Who doesn't love lilies? There are many different species of lily from the classics to the rare finds. There are even varieties of lilies that can be planted in containers. The summer blooms of the lily are staples in a summer garden. The great thing about lilies is they can stand alone, be used as a border or they can be planted deep inside a flower bed and be the focal point.

You can get by with planting lily bulbs in the spring, but most gardeners will plant their lily bulbs in the fall. The best advice for planting lily bulbs is to plant them in a location that is sunny and that has well draining soil. Bulbs should be planted to a depth of six inches. Depending upon the variety of lily you are planting, spacing will vary. The classic daylilies and other species are generally planted about eight inches apart. You should keep the soil watered until winter when the ground freezes. You can mulch over your lily bulbs after the first frost. Most lily species will bloom from late May and early June through September.

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Just like the daffodil, when tulips bloom they bring a splash of color to a drab landscape and shout to the world that spring is on its way. Tulips come in a wide range of colors and there are even striped and blotched varieties available. Tulip size runs the gamut from very short varieties to very tall ones. Most of the tulips that are sold in the United States originate from Holland.

For growing tulip bulbs in your garden you should get them in the ground in the late fall. The site where you plant your tulip bulbs should have well draining soil. If it does not, add compost and sand to help with drainage. Place the bulb in the ground flat side down. Plant your tulip bulbs to a depth of five inches and space them about five to eight inches apart, depending upon the variety you are planting. Taller varieties should be planted farther apart.

If you are planting tulip bulbs and you live south of Zone Eight, you will need to store your tulip bulbs in the refrigerator for about a month prior to planting. Just make sure they don’t freeze. Many home and garden centers now sell pre-cooled bulbs for people who do not want the hassle of cooling their own tulip bulbs.

The Scoop on Storing Flower Bulbs

Flower bulbs need to be property stored until the planting season arrives. One of the most important things you can do for your flower bulbs is to keep them dry and cool. Keeping them in a cool place does not mean you put them in an unheated shed or other area where temperatures drop below freezing. The perfect location for storing flower bulbs is somewhere that the temperatures do not drop below 45 degrees F. Many people find that a basement or an unheated closet works great.

However, each kind of bulb has its own requirements. Here is a basic rundown of the most popular flower bulbs and their storage requirements:

  • Lilies should be stored between 35 and 45 degrees F. If they are stored in temperatures higher than this they may sprout.
  • Gladiolus and Dahlias can tolerate being stored between 40 and 60 degrees F. However, an area that leans more toward 40 degrees F is better.
  • Canna Lilies should never be allowed to dry out. Store your Canna Lilies around 50 degrees F.
  • Elephant Ears can tolerate higher storage temperatures. They can safely be stored in an area that is between 60 and 70 degrees F.

Understanding Cannas

Canna bulbs are actually called rhizomes. Many people will grow Cannas because they have such attractive and bright foliage and the blooms are very colorful. Cannas come in many different colors including orange, pink, coral and apricot. Cannas come in many different varieties, even ones that can be grown in water. There are even some Cannas that will grow to be six feet tall! Another interesting tidbit about Cannas is they are loved by hummingbirds.

Plant Cannas in the spring. They love soil that is very rich and that gets full sun. Make sure the area where you plant your rhizomes drains well. Rhizomes should be divided allowing one or two tips per section. Plant them three to four inches deep and about two to three feet apart. When you are planting, try to mix in some compost or other organic matter into the soil. You should mulch around your Cannas to keep the soil moist. You should also apply a nitrogen fertilizer about once a month during the growing season.

Gardeners in warm areas can leave their Cannas in the ground year round. Gardeners who live in regions that have very harsh and cold winters should dig up the roots of their Cannas after they have died back. Cannas should be stored in a dark and cool place until the next planting season.

When to Mulch Your Flower Bulb Garden

Mulching your flower bulb garden is not a requirement, but it can be beneficial. If you do mulch, do so in the fall after the ground has cooled. The purpose behind this is to keep the soil cool and stable, not to keep it warm. Mulching to a depth of three inches is sufficient.

Mulching too soon and before a freeze is nearly the same as putting out a welcome sign for rodents. These critters are always on the lookout for a warm and cozy place to set up housekeeping for the coming cold season. No one wants an infestation! Keeping rodents away from your flower bulbs will also reduce the chance that your bulbs will be dug up and eaten before the growing season begins.