If your digging arm ran out of steam after planting the first bag of fifty tulips last fall, your spring flower show may not be as lush as you wanted it to be. Interplant your large bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, with cold hardy annuals. The resulting look will resemble a gardening magazine spread or public garden display you have admired.
The careful digging that allows you to install a nursery six-pack of hardy annual transplants won’t disturb large bulbs, which should be planted… 4-8 inches deep. Plant the annuals as soon as they are offered in your nursery, as you should already see green foliage tips emerging from the bulbs. Try these four planting partners this spring:
- Tulips and primroses
- Hyacinths and pansies
- Daffodils and scented stock
- Dutch iris and sweet alyssum
When creating a flowering landscape, follow the garden design principle of starting with trees, then shrubs, then plants. Shrubs not only give the garden texture and dimension, many offer reliable spring flowers for sunny or shady situations. Azaleas herald the arrival of spring in many southern gardens, and forsythia does the same in temperate climates. If the thought of a plain green shrub amidst your flowers doesn’t thrill you, choose a shrub that displays bright berries after its flowers… fall, like viburnum. You can also look for newer cultivars of old favorites that have variegated foliage, like daphne ‘Marginata’ in warm climates or elderberry ‘Madonna’ in cold climates.
When you include flowering containers in your spring garden, you can get earlier blooms in your garden than when you plant in the ground. You can bring small hanging baskets into a shed or garage when temperatures plummet at night, and even large containers can move to a sheltered area if you employ planters on casters. Some of the most beloved container plants thrive in cool spring temperatures, including snapdragons, petunias, and annual lobelia. These cool season annuals are at their… flowering peak when daytime temperatures are in the 70s. Other container flowers, like viola and nasturtium, can tolerate early spring frosts.
Planting bulbs under a lawn doesn’t take any special skill; the most important care tip for naturalizing flower bulbs in a lawn is to delay mowing until the bulb foliage matures. Therefore, choose the earliest blooming bulbs to plant, unless you don’t mind letting your grass grow as long as strappy bulb foliage. Crocus bulbs are the most commonly grown flowers in a lawn, but you can also try snowdrops or iris reticulata. Slice your sod with a sharp spade, and plant groups of bulbs at least three… inches below the soil surface.
The colder the climate, the more anxious gardeners are for signs of spring in the landscape. Planting very early bloomers can make you feel like you’ve cheated part of winter, because these hardy bulbs may begin to bloom when the holiday decorations are just coming down. These petite flowers don’t make much of a statement when planted in groups of a dozen or less, but the low price of the so-called minor bulbs makes a planting of a hundred or more affordable.
The common snowdrop, Galanthus… nivalis, sports dainty white bell-shaped flowers on six-inch stalks. They bloom as early as January, and naturalize easily in an undisturbed spot. If white flowers are lost in your snowy garden, consider the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, which produce bright yellow flowers atop a ruffled collar of green foliage. Finally, glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa luciliae, produces masses of blue, pink, or white star-shaped flowers to satisfy your pastel flower cravings.
Spring bulbs faithfully reappear at the most advantageous time – after a long, cold winter. Most spring bulbs are perennial and multiply in number every year. Seemingly carefree, bulbs do require a bit of nurturing ensuring that they perform their very best for years to come.
- Good soil drainage is important to prevent bulbs from rotting so plan your site accordingly.
- When planting bulbs in the fall, add a high phosphorus fertilizer to the planting hole for the development strong roots.
- Bulb foliage will often break through the soil after a few warm winter days. This vegetation is hardy and its exposure to the cold will not damage your plants or prevent them from blooming.
- Fertilize bulbs as plants are emerging from the ground. Do not fertilize once flowers appear. Use a 5-10-5 granular fertilizer to assist in foliage and flower development.
- After blooming, cut back the flower stalk. This will force the plant to put its energy into the bulb for next year’s flowers and not into seed production.
- Allow the leaves to die back naturally. The leaves are vital for producing food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. Cut leaves; never pull, once they have turned yellow. Do not tie leaves as this reduces the leaf surface required for adequate food production.
- When the foliage dies back the bulb is dormant, this is the proper time to dig and separate bulbs if necessary. Flowering will often be reduced when bulb beds become over-crowded. If division is needed, bulbs should be dug and stored in a well-ventilated place and replanted in the fall.
- Fertilize bulbs again in the fall with a high-phosphorus, granular fertilizer.