Fall bulbs are, naturally, planted in the fall and flower in the spring. Many believe that they should be planted in the early spring, believing that the winter frosts can harm them. In fact nothing could be farther from the truth. Bulbs, corms and rhizomes are all classed as bulbs for the purposes of fall planting. Fall bulbs need the cold of winter earth to prompt them to start growing and form a healthy root system, and a newly planted bulb will remain dormant until the ground temperature reaches 5 ? 10 Celsius (40 ? 50F). If you have an early fall frost and a mild winter, you will find bulbs starting to peek above the ground in January rather than March, and if your winter is mild, your bulbs will grow, but the roots will not be strong.
The bigger the bulb, the more important a frost for their root system. The cold of winter is essential for them. That is something to keep in mind when considering planting time, and with global warming sometimes causing mild falls, you might want to plant your bulbs later in the season ? around November or December.
Whatever you plan to do, you should make up your mind early exactly what you want to plant. You have a very wide choice of plants and colors. You can get most colors from bulbs these days thanks to the wonders of hybridization, and there is no reason why your spring garden should not be a riot of yellows, reds, pinks, blues and purples. Add to that the snowy white of snowdrops and your garden should look great. However, keep in mind that not all of the different plants bloom at the same time, so choose carefully if you have planned a garden around that.
Possibilities are the snowdrops already mentioned that look fabulous when grown in large clumps, and then crocuses, lilies, tulips, daffodils and other narcissi, hyacinths and alliums. There are also irises and many others, most of which are available in a multitude of different colors. Towards the end of summer the garden stores will be full of them, and also the general stores, outdoor centers and even department stores. You will find pages and pages of sites online, and if you Google 'fall bulbs' you will have so much choice you will likely never want to stop looking! Many gardeners like to color theme their gardens using fall bulbs, or to layer them with the smaller plants at the front and larger at the back.
That is when you should check the estimated flowering times since you don't want the yellows coming out in March but the reds leaving it till June! The same with the sized planting: you could have a big bare patch in your garden while the middle sized bulbs leave it till May to flower. All of this information should be on the pack, but if not you can get the information online for your specific bulb. The bulbs should be planted when the soil temperature drops to at least 10 Celsius (50F), and should be two bulb thicknesses deep. Make sure you plant them the right way up! They like a well drained soil that holds moisture, and if you add a thickness of compost below the bulb by digging the hole a bit deeper, this will provide the needed drainage, moisture and nutrition required for the first year's growth.
Old bulbs should be fed with a top dressing of a good bulb fertilizer, and clumps separated every now and again to promote more vigorous growth. Bulbs like a sunny spot in the garden, where they are exposed to about 5 ? 6 hours of light daily. Under a tree or beside a wall that shades them from the sun are not suitable, and growth will be slow. Once they have been planted you just leave them and they will look after themselves. The fall bulbs don't mind frost and snow, unlike summer planting bulbs that should be lifted over the winter.
Anybody who would like a nice show of blooms in the spring should plant fall bulbs. You can design your spring garden in any way you want so long as you are acquainted with the bulbs, corms or rhizomes that you are planting. They are easy to look after, and are the ideal solution for the amateur gardener that wants to impress the neighbors in March.
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