Fall is time to think spring — bulbs

Daffodils put on gorgeous display in spring. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

Daffodils put on gorgeous display in spring. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

By Jennifer Williams, LSU AgCenter area horticulture agent, NW region

It may still feel like summer outside, but as we move into fall it is time to start thinking ahead to next spring and plan for beautiful blooms to shine through after a dreary winter. Bulbs are such a wonderful way to bring some early color to a garden full of sleepy perennials and shrubs. Although bulbs traditionally do not have long bloom times, careful planning can result in a beautiful show of color from January through September.

To help you create a multi-season color show, it is important to choose plants that overlap each other in the spring as they tend to have shorter bloom times than summer bulbs:

  • Very Early: January-February — Galanthus snow drop, Anemone blanda.
  • Early Spring: February-March — Crocus sp., Narcissus, Hyacinth.
  • Mid-Spring: March-April — Bletilla ground orchid, Iris.
  • Late Spring: April-May — Easter lily, Allium, Zantedeschia calla lily.

There are so many other spring bulbs out there, the sky is the limit — especially when you look at varieties of Narcissus. (The Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners have at least 15 different varieties available for their annual bulb sale coming up this weekend, Oct. 24).

Planning for your summer bulbs is not nearly as mentally draining to create a timeline of blooms, as many of the summer bulbs bloom throughout the summer months. Some of my favorites are the traditional choices you see in many NWLA landscapes: crinums, gladiolus, dahlias, gingers and society garlic.

Spider lily. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Williams.

Spider lily. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Williams.

Once you have your base summer bulbs, pick a couple show-stopper short-lived blooms for different parts of summer. Here’s just one example: Eucomis Pineapple Lily (May), Agapanthus (later blooming varieties) and Lycoris (spider lily). My favorite spider is a beautiful yellow and white one (pictured here) that magically appeared in my mix of red that I planted this spring, I am working on finding out the variety.

Finally, let me leave you with a few bulb planting basics to get you started if your new to bulbs or refresh your memory if it has been awhile since you last updated your collection!

  • Spring bulbs are planted in November-December, while the summer bulbs vary a little bit depending on what you choose. Some need to be planted in March while others can be planted year round. There are great resources available to help you if the instructions do not include planting dates.
  • As a general rule of thumb, you need to plant your bulbs twice as deep as the bulb is tall. So if you have a 2-inch bulb, it needs to go 4 inches into the ground. There are some varieties, including amaryllis, that vary so always check the instructions your bulbs come with before planting!
  • Traditional tulips and hyacinths need to meet a chill requirement for them to bloom — which means you need to store them in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks before planting in December-January. Note: Do not store with your fruit as the ethylene released from your fruit will rot the bulbs.
  • When purchasing bulbs, always look for the best quality you can afford. This means that you want a large, solid bulb with no soft spots or rotting, that have been packaged in this year.

I wish you happy hunting and exploring on your bulb adventure!

NWLAMG bulb sale

The Northwest Louisiana Master Gardener Fall Bulb Sale will be held from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 24 at Randle T. Moore Center, 3101 Fairfield Ave., Shreveport. Among the bulbs available will be amaryllis, 16 varieties of narcissus, anemones, Oriental lilies and red and yellow spider lilies. Admission: free. Info: 318-698-0010.

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