Bulbs should be firm when selected, not mushy or soft, as that signals a dead or bad bulb. Occasionally mold may form on the outer skin, but can easily be brushed off and causes no harm to the bulb. Many bulbs will naturalize, and if cared for properly, will return and bloom the following spring: daffodils, crocus, hyacinth muscari, and alliums, are varieties that will naturalize in the garden. Tulips, unlike other fall planting bulbs, are not native to American gardens, and will not return the following year; they are best pulled and new bulbs replanted the following fall. Gardeners who deal with deer and rabbits use deer resistant varieties to help curb destruction in their garden: scilla, snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinth, allium, are not favored meals by wildlife; however, a hungry animal will eat anything if hungry enough. Bulbs bloom at different times throughout the spring, so with some research, an amateur gardener can make a show-stopping display that continues after each flower is spent.
How to Plant Bulbs
Good soil preparation is the key to planting bulbs; some gardeners dig up a larger space to facilitate planting large numbers of bulbs, while others use garden tools to create holes into which the bulbs will spend the winter. Plant bulbs about 8″ deep for larger bulbs, and 5″ deep for the smaller varieties; the general rule of thumb is that the depth of the bulb shoud be 3x the diameter. Bulbs prefer good draining soil, and do not like wet feet, so areas that collect heavy water are not ideal. Containers look stunning with bulbs planted in layers based on size. Always place the bulb with the pointed side up, and the flatter side (often with tiny roots) down, cover with soil, water, and let the winter rains and snow take care of watering until spring. Plant bulbs in clumps, or stagger to create larger washes of color. Paying attention to bloom times when planting can help fill in spent blooms in the garden and create a show of color that lasts all spring.
The simplest advice here is: “Do Nothing”. After the flower has bloomed and faded, do not cut down the leaves and stalk. Let the plant die back naturally and brown out over the course of late spring and early summer. During this period, the flower bulb will gain back all of the energy spent in flowering, and continue its life cycle. A popular belief is that bulbs should be tied back, however it is not necessary, it is better to let them be so that they can prepare for the next season. Once brown, remove the spent leaves. Some bulbs, after time, will need to be dug up and divided, to ensure continued flowering. After the first year, bulbs will benefit from a mild fertilizer designed for bulbs starting the spring. Most general fertilizers are too harsh for bulbs. One final tip is that if you do not like to see the dying foliage, we reommend planting your spring flowering bulbs among perennials. As the spring flowering bulbs die back, the summer flowering perennials start to emerge and hide the dying foliage.
courtesy of Netherland Bulb Company